Public opposition to a plan to open a bar on Main Street that will market to people as young as 18 has a city lawmaker reconsidering his support.
University District Common Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt said his office has been flooded with neighbors and nearby property owners who oppose the bar. Because of that opposition, Wyatt said, he will rethink approval of the plan, which is scheduled to come before the Common Council Tuesday.
“Initially, I thought we could move this thing forward. But for me not to listen to” the community’s objections, “that would be disingenuous,” Wyatt said. “If people are vehemently against it, I don’t have a leg to stand on because people came out so strongly on it. I think they were OK when they thought it was going to be a bar.”
Anthony J. Sordetto is leasing 3144 Main St. and wants a special use permit to open Main Place. The paperwork Sordetto filed with the city says the establishment will be a “restaurant that serves alcohol and has live music.” It would be open Wednesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.
But at the Common Council’s legislation committee meeting last Tuesday, the scope of the establishment changed from what Wyatt was told previously, he said. Wyatt said he was told by Sordetto initially that the business would be a restaurant, but during Tuesday's committee meeting, Sordetto said his "intentions" are to open a restaurant at a later time when he could afford to install a commercial kitchen. Until then, the food offerings would only be sandwiches and wraps that could be made in a food prep area in the building.
The State Liquor Authority on Thursday granted Sordetto a liquor license for 3148 Main St., but it was unclear if the license applies to the proposal for 3144 Main St.
Sordetto was no immediately available for comment.
Wyatt said at a later meeting, he was told that the establishment would be a bar that would market to people 18 and older for once-a-week events.
“I didn’t know that. I was unaware they would be marketing to 18 and up,” Wyatt said of the revelation.
Nearby residents and property owners did not know that either, and what’s more they said they didn’t have much of an opportunity to weigh in on the project. If so, they would have communicated that they believe the establishement is not good for the community.
“It went from a restaurant to a bar to now an 18 and over club,” said Tucker Curtin, owner of The Steer and Lake Effect Diner across the street.
“We never had a chance to have a good conversation to even know if we would support the project or not,” Curtin said.
Curtin said the project started in April but there was no mention of it to block clubs or business association. And there was no notice put on the door of the business.
“If they did, it wasn’t put up there all the time,” Curtin said.
Tucker said two weeks ago he received a notice from Common Council for a public hearing that was held last Tuesday during the Legislation committee meeting.
Wyatt explained some of the lapses in communication.
“It wasn’t all laid out strategically,” he said.
The University Heights Collaborative, “the voice of the community on this issue,” Wyatt said, held a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, which was the same day as the legislation committee meeting. But the committee meeting was held earlier in the day at 2 p.m.
Because the Collaborative meeting wasn’t until after the committee meeting, Wyatt recommended during the committee meeting that the plan be tabled, he said.
What’s more, following the committee meeting, the Planning Board met at 4 p.m and held a public hearing on the proposal. The Planning Board subsequently approved recommending the plan to the Common Council.
The plan – and the request for a special use permit - is scheduled to come before the Common Council during its regular business meeting on Tuesday.
“I’m very sensitive to residents’ concerns because we do not want to add fuel to the fire,” Wyatt said.
That was welcome news to some who opposed the plan, saying another bar is not a good addition to the neighborhood, especially one that will market to 18-year-olds.
“I think it is very bright on his part,” said Fred Brace of Wyatt’s decision to reconsider Sordetto’s plan. Brace is a longtime resident of the University Park neighborhood of University Heights.
“I hate to sound like I’m against new business, but this is not the new business we need that will attract people and families into the University Heights area, which is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get better landlords in and get families in to homestead some of these properties and fix them up.”
“I think that’s a very good thing" that Wyatt is reconsidering the plan. "I think his constituents and the people in his neighborhood are clearly unhappy about it with very good reason,” said Susan Carpenter a University District resident. “They don’t really have any intention of having this be an amenity to the neighborhood. This is a place they can try to lure in college kids to get drunk. It seems he’s marketing to under-age kids.”
Carpenter said Sordetto’s plan for keeping under-aged patrons from drinking alcohol at the establishment is to provide two different kinds of wristbands to identify legal drinkers versus those who are not.
"College kids are going to drink," Carpenter said.
“I think that’s an excellent step in the right direction,” Curtin said about Wyatt decision to rethink Sordetto’s plan. “And if we can catch this thing before it blows up in our face then our neighborhood can move forward… and know things can change and evolve and we can be the kind of community we want to be.”