By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – The City Council approved proposal wording April 16 that would allow outdoor cafes to stay open until 2 a.m., which bar owners say they need and nearby residents oppose.
The proposed ordinance would have public hearings at two future council meetings before the council votes on the changes. Councilman Chris Calvin voted against the revised wording.
The changes to the cafe ordinance would extend outdoor cafe hours to all year, instead of limiting them to March 15 to Nov. 15, a proposal that some argue could interfere with city snow removal during the winter months.
Currently, cafes are allowed to be open until 2 a.m. only for Third Friday events, and for special events like the annual summer Street Art Fair, which require City Council approval. The proposed ordinance would allow outdoor cafes — many associated with bars — to stay open until 2 a.m. year-round on Friday and Saturday nights. Cafes would close at midnight other nights.
The ordinance also changes the compliance responsibility to the Engineering and Building Department, which would review annual cafe permit renewals, instead of the Planning Commission.
An annual public hearing would be required for the renewal of a cafe if any written complaints were received from the city in the prior year. Police reports for noise violations from cafes would also be considered.
Outdoor cafes on city-owned sidewalks – including Wine Dotte Bistro, Nana’s Kitchen and the American Legion Post – would be required to carried increased liability insurance to protect the city from lawsuits seeking restitution resulting either from an injury incurred at a cafe on city property or from a crash caused by a driver who had been served alcohol at an outdoor cafe on city property.
Councilman Chris Calvin said the noise of patrons at the outdoor cafes at night could bother nearby residents even if they do not violate city sound decibel levels.
Belicoso Martini Cigar Bar owner Mark Srour, Dotte Pub owner Dan Helka, Matt Buskard of Bobcat Bonnie’s and Rick DeSana of Captain’s Bar spoke to the city council and emphasized that outdoor cafes are important to maintaining profitability of the establishments.
They expressed concerned that being required to maintain $5 million in liability insurance instead of $50,000 could be an undo burden to the business owners, to which Mayor Joseph Peterson said he did not want litigators to come after the city as a result of outdoor cafes that served alcohol to a person who was subsequently involved in an injury accident, and the awards that jury trials could levy as damages.
Southgate resident Katelin Fay, who previously presented a petition to the council, signed by patrons who want outdoor cafes open later, said the customers are seeking a compromise from the city that allows the extended hours. She acknowledged that not all of the petition signers were Wyandotte residents, including herself.
Peterson said that no outdoor cafe proposal will please all residents, and he said that the Police Department will track cafe noise complaints, which will be considered in annual permit renewals.
Resident Corky Benson reminded the council of problems the city has experienced in the past with bars and disturbance of the peace, and urged the council to consider the residents who live near outdoor cafes who have to contend with the noise, saying when they bought houses near an indoor bar they did not experience the same noise as an outdoor cafe creates.
Hearings will be held at the next two Monday Wyandotte council meetings, 7 p.m. April 30 and May 7 at City Hall, 3200 Biddle.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)