Avenues Bistro in Salt Lake City has started a petition to get its outdoor patio back open and the owner has enlisted the help Salt Lake City Attorney Pat Shea. Back in October, the restaurant was ordered to close the space because it violated a Salt Lake City Zoning ordinance.
Avenues Bistro on Third is buzzing Wednesday at lunch time. Normally, even as the winter chill sets in, customers would be pouring outside to find a coveted patio seat. The restaurant opened in 2011, and has since provided an outdoor dining space through mid-December. That is, until a neighbor complained and the city stepped in to enforce an existing zoning law.
Attorney Pat Shea says what happened to Avenues Bistro was the result of a lack of communication between those who issued the original business license and those who enforce the zoning law.
“So it’s as if the left hand said, go ahead and build this restaurant, and the right hand, the enforcement mechanism was never informed. And then once the neighbor complained it had to come and in essence cancel what the left hand agreed to do.”
Shea says he’s helping the owner Kathie Chadbourne survey the neighborhood and gather signatures.
The city council has a process through the planning office where one can petition to change the zoning map that impacts the area. The council would then conduct public hearings and potentially vote on the change. Shea says when the zoning map was drawn 30 years ago, there was a desire for exclusive residential neighborhoods that didn’t include businesses.
“Well lifestyles have changed and people want to be able to walk to outdoor restaurants to have facilities in their neighborhood," Shea says.
The petition is posted on the counter at Avenues Bistro, just as customers enter the restaurant. There is also an online petition at change.org that already has more than 1100 signatures. Shea says there is no specified number of signatures needed for the petition process.
Update: According to a memo written by Salt Lake City's Planning Division director and delivered to city officials in October, there appears to be no documented history of outdoor dining being permitted to Avenues Bistro on Third.
Salt Lake City code enforcement is a complaint-based system. A spokesman for the mayor says city staff do not actively patrol or seek out code infractions. That's why this issue was never identified before a complaint was made.