By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – A local bar got some help last week from city officials to serve customers who have been going outside to smoke.
The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a special use request from the White Rhino Sports Bar, 4328 Oakwood, for an outdoor patio with dining service. However, the resolution gives police broad discretion to close the patio whenever they see fit.
The council’s move came after carefully reviewing the restrictions inserted by the Planning Commission to lessen the impact of outdoor patrons on local residents.
In a 3-2 vote on May 13 commissioners narrowly approved the request from Chris Simons, part owner of the bar. Commissioners Kevin Conrad, John Fraser and Robert Cassady voted in favor, with Vincent Agius and Craig Janofski against. Ed Medrano, Mike Haftel, Michael Kollmorgen and Robert MacVicar were not at the meeting. Property owners within 300 feet of the business were notified of the hearing.
The commission’s motion sets outdoor patio hours from to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Labor Day to Memorial Day, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It does not allow outdoor music, entertainment and sound systems on the patio and is nontransferable to subsequent property owners.
Simons said the patio would not cause the loss of any parking spaces, and would forestall some of the revenue that has been lost because of the state’s smoking ban.
“The patrons are in front (along) Oakwood anyway,” he said. “The longer they’re outside, the less money I’m making. They’re having fun, talking with their buddies and smoking.”
Simons added that he also wants to prevent patrons from gathering near the street or talking loudly near open windows of nearby houses. The patio will direct patrons to the front of the building, he said.
Simons asked for details on the closure provision because of the money he plans to invest in nice patio furniture, like stainless steel tables.
City Attorney Joseph Couvreur said the council’s action allows police to close the patio whenever things get “out of hand.”
“I think the Planning Commission did the best they could by giving you some reasonable guidelines,” he said.
Couvreur cautioned, however, that if residents bring new complaints to the council, the special use allowance could be rescinded.