Does the City of Royal Oak Support Growth

While we do not see the UrbaneBlog.com as a political site, we do want to highlight things of interest, particularly potential development of new business, restaurants, hip and cool happenings and general things going on and like things of interest. Our friend Frank Versagi and his blog Voice, does an excellent job at covering Royal Oak Politics.

Franks most recent coverage of the Liquor Control Committee meeting on May 13 regarding BlackFinn’s request to open a 2-story alcohol-serving restaurant (with a 245-person dance floor on the upper level) may be of interest to our readership. We have copied below straight from Frank’s blog the meeting observations.

What is the Liquor Control Committee?
Three members of the City Commission sit on the LCC, as does the City Manager and the City Attorney. Because the LCC’s recommendations must be approved by CITCOM, city hall observers can learn all they need to know by monitoring CITCOM meetings, unless a specific interest requires their presence at the LCC gathering. As at CITCOM, the public can participate either during Public Comment or during a Public Hearing concerned with a specific agenda item.

The 13 May 09 Meeting
Commissioner Terry Drinkwine chaired a longer-than-usual meeting of the city’s Liquor Control Committee (actually, subcommittee) which covered a lot of ground: amended plans of operation; transfer, or not, of liquor licenses; and permits for outdoor service. In addition to Public Comment, there were four Public Hearings, so several attendees spoke more than once. Drinkwine and Commissioner Gary Lelito were joined by Commissioner Chuck Semchena, who sat in for out-of-town Commissioner Stephen Miller.

Decisions were reached about such matters as a portable bar for an outside cafe (Oxford Inn); expansion of rooftop service over the roof space of other business in the building (Memphis Smoke); outdoor service (Peking House); liquor license transfer (“Q” Detroit Barbecue); and dance permit and liquor license transfer (BlackFinn). Actually, making a decision about the last item was postponed because of a potential legal side-issue, described briefly below. Then, there was more exploration about developing an ordinance to permit Bistro licenses in Royal Oak.

Though politely conducted, the dialogue of BlackFinn’s request to open a 2-story alcohol-serving restaurant (with a 245-person dance floor on the upper level) was the most intense. From the commissioners and the attendees came differing positions:

The addition of a 400-person restaurant at the south end of Main will establish another mega bar and overwhelm city services, including police and code enforcement. . . . Semchena labeled the proposed facility “a nightclub, not a restaurant.”

Essentially what remains is for CITCOM itself to examine the several approaches to the concept and decide whether to work out the details of a proposed ordinance or to drop the idea.

400 people means  200 cars. . . . Parking won’t be a problem, because a new 200-car structure is being built nearby. . . . Great, so the result will be that our net parking capacity will go backwards.

BlackFinn offers to pay the compensation for an additional police officer. . . . Wonderful, we set a precedent for bribing the city by buying a cop.

BlackFinn contends that the building, the south end of which has been vacant for years, “was erected with the city’s original acceptance of the concept in mind.” To keep the building, “viable,” the concept, “including transfer of an outside license, must be honored.” Laymen see another lawsuit against the city.

Lelito was for denying BlackFinn’s request outright. Semchena, former city attorney, made it clear that he would vote to deny the request but cited the need to determine the validity the owner’s memory re the city’s original commitment. With that in mind, LCC decided to postpone the decision and to direct City Attorney Dave Gillam to review the records.

There was dialogue about Bistro licenses, and Lelito asked line-by-line questions about Semchena’s discussion draft, which Chuck had placed on the shelf with the agenda and minutes of the night’s meeting. As only one example of conflicting downtown interests, bistros could justify moving a restaurant into smaller spaces (1,500-2,000 sq ft). Opposed are those who fear such use of smaller spaces would reduce the likelihood of attracting more retail, because landlords will hold out for the higher rents that come with food service.

Bistro or not, it became clear that ordinances and regulations must distinguish between “occupancy” and “seating.” The former includes employees, according to Gillam. The latter distinguishes between customers and staff.

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  • Brandon

    I guess I don’t understand why Royal Oak seems to be making it so tough to do business here — whether Bordine’s or Blackfinn — should the city really be resisting efforts by people who want to OPEN a business in this climate. It sounds like Blackfinn is making an effort to solve the potential problem (additional need for policing) in a creative manner. Without residents, visitors, and rent-paying businesses downtown, it really doesn’t matter, though, as tax revenues will continue to dry up, no matter how aggressive the city’s “parking enforcement” team is . . .

    Royal Oak leaders — what are you doing to attract businesses to our City? Have a better plan for that vacant space? If not, get out of the way.

  • http://www.ctechsinc.com/ Ryan Meray

    Maybe Blackfinn should consider development elsewhere. The grass is pretty green in Ferndale these days.

  • http://urbaneapts.com Eric Brown

    @Brandon, Those are great questions. I do not know enough about what the City,s Master Plan is, or even if there is one. Irrespective of that, whatever they have isn’t working.

    There are far too many empty storefronts and vacant buildings. To here about the recent BBQ being denied, and now potentially this is maddening.

  • http://urbaneapts.com Eric Brown

    @Ryan, Thanks for stopping by, we appreciate your input. And, isn’t a Congratulations in order for you regarding your recent propose to marriage?

    We love Ferndale, and our hats off to you for listening, and reaching out on behalf of the Ferndale Chamber. NO ONE from Royal Oak has done that, which result in missed opportunity for them

  • jr

    After driving down main street yesterday and seeing signs up in parking lots for ‘$5 PARKING’…. I’ve lost all interest in doing anything in that money sucking city. All the fun has been lost. Its not what it used to be. Five dollar parking? Really? I’ll pay that for a Tigers game, but to grab some sushi at Little Tree or to grab an ice cream from cold stone…. No fricken way. Royal Oak needs to drop this whole charging up the ass thing for parking. No other city does this.

  • Brandon

    Hey, jr. The $5 parking is for those who want to pay for the privilege of parking across the street from Blackfinn. Willing to walk 2 blocks? It’s only $3. Willing to walk 4 blocks? It’s free.

    Ferndale charges for parking too, as does Birmingham, and for that matter, Detroit. Is there a town with restaurants and bars in a cool downtown area that doesn’t charge for parking?

    Just dinner @ Little tree — you can get away with a dollar in the meter. An ice cream cone — 15 cents will probably work.

    Come on back!

  • http://seandunlop.com/Home.html Sean Dunlop

    Jr. – Regarding parking, I recently went to the RO Brewery to meet up with some friends, and pulled into the lot only to find some random guy standing there with his hand extended. I was a little confused until his mouth opened and the words “$5 Self Parking” were uttered. I couldn’t believe it. However, this is not the work of the City. Those who charge $5 are private owners of their lots and can charge what they want. The City charges you $3 all night, or if you happen to get a street spot, you can park there for a small charge until 10p.m. when it becomes free.

    PS: The last Commission meeting, the owners of the RO Brewery appeared again and presented a revised plan of operation for their proposed “Q” BBQ at 3rd St. This time, the Commission voted to allow a liquor transfer from an outside community.

    The City of Royal Oak should be encouraging an Entrepreneurial Culture.

  • HH Mike

    Form what I can see about RO; Black Finn has been a hot resturant/bar for one year. Their specials have developed a loyal fan base. Maybe the City Council does not see that. Old bars like Wooodies, Fth Ave and Mr Bs, don’t offer these specials and their patronage is not as hip or cool.

    A upstair’s dance floor could help replace the old Rumors that most people miss.

    The parking issue should not be a problem, because dance bars don’t get going until after 10:00pm

    I hope BF gets the approval.

    Thanks,
    HH Mike

  • http://www.midwestguest.com DominiqueKing

    Royal Oak does have a Master Plan, although if memory serves, it’s probably pretty dated.

    Looking…OK, it was adopted in 1999

    http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/mp/index.html

  • http://www.midwestguest.com DominiqueKing

    I sat on a city committee eons ago, and whenever questioned about doing something differently, the city administrator basically in charge of reining us all in replied “It hasn’t been the pattern in the past”. That city administrator is long gone, but the attitude is still alive and not-do-well in RO.
    The city seems to err on the side of totally trying to control change, rather than figuring out how to best grow and/or thrive as the city changes.

  • Matt Dibble

    No BBQ (although now it might be coming?) and no Black Finn additional bar and night club. I’m wondering how long we’re going to continue to vote in the people who don’t want our city to grow and change ( and by the way, paying for the extra enforcement is not a “bribe,” it’s covering the cost of what the city will have to pony up in order for them to open their restaurant)
    I’m getting pretty tired of not being properly represented by my city… hey Sean… what are you doing for the next couple of years?

  • http://seandunlop.com/Home.html Sean Dunlop

    Hey Matt, I hear you. I am fed up as well. That is why I decided to run this year for City Commissioner. Our City government needs to mirror what Royal Oak is today. I grew up here and watched it turn into a more interesting place to live, however, we do not need to “control” it’s growth, but rather encourage it.

  • http://www.lostwebforums.com/ LW

    After driving down main street yesterday and seeing signs up in parking lots for ‘$5 PARKING’…. I’ve lost all interest in doing anything in that money sucking city. All the fun has been lost. Its not what it used to be. Five dollar parking? Really? I’ll pay that for a Tigers game, but to grab some sushi at Little Tree or to grab an ice cream from cold stone…. No fricken way. Royal Oak needs to drop this whole charging up the ass thing for parking. No other city does this.

  • Babs

    LW, at least try to change up the words a bit from jr’s (identical) comment!