By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — One business owner’s headache shed light on the “glaring problem” with the council’s approach to approving special events held by local businesses.
Councilors faced what they thought would be a routine decision Monday night with the approval of the 1st Street closure for the Fourth Annual Cookoff at the Belicoso Cafe, 3030 Biddle Ave. The cafe’s owner, Mark Srour, proposed to close a 100-foot section of 1st Street and in the request, he said the road closure would not block access to any other business because there were no entrances in that section of the street.
Gail Melsner disagreed with the request and pleaded to the council to take action because she was fed up with the situation she is constantly put in by the cafe. Melsner is the director of operations for Treasure Alley, 3016 1st St., and said every time an event is held at the cafe, 1st Street is blocked off right in front of her building.
She said she doesn’t object to businesses hosting special events, but the length of time the street is closed causes her to lose several days of operating her business. During the last event the cafe held, she said, the barricades blocked her business for five days and gave the appearance that her store was closed.
Melsner said the road was blocked all day on that Friday and Saturday, and all the fencing and decorations weren’t taken down completely until the following Tuesday. She pleaded with the council to reconsider the process in which businesses apply for special event permits.
“It is not fair to have to go home early or send my people home early because the street gets blocked off,” Melsner said. “He still has business and I am forced to close because there is no access to my front door.”
After she voiced her concerns, the council agreed the problems lie in how the proposals are presented the council. Businesses used to contact the City Clerk’s office and place the proposal on the agenda to be voted on by the council, Mayor Joseph Peterson said, but there is a more formal process that has to occur before the agenda item can be created and approved.
He said it was the responsibility of the council to make the situation right with Melsner because they were not following the correct process.
“We wish we could have heard from you earlier,” Peterson said in response to Melsner’s comments of closing her doors early. “We do not encourage any business to shut down. This council is very sorry for what you’ve had to go through.”
City Engineer Mark Kowalewski said a business is supposed to submit a form to the Parks and Recreation Department. That form, he said, should be accompanied with a plan, then be formally presented to the council before an agenda item is created and approved by council.
“This is what the city should have been doing and it is obvious that we weren’t doing it,” Peterson said. “We should have caught this before. Not all the blame should be put on this one business owner.”
The council still approved the proposal, but stipulated that Srour must comply with the city’s guidelines. Councilwoman Sheri Sutherby-Fricke also added a stipulation that the business owner should shoulder the overtime costs associated with the Department of Public Works employees re-opening the road after the event.
She said this stipulation for this and future proposals would ensure a timely turnaround, since those employees close the road and do not work overtime, and would have less impact on the businesses in the area.
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])