Restaurant may serve drinks outside

CITY HALL — It’s margarita time. Well, almost.

The City Council this week authorized city executives to allow owners of the downtown Don Cuco Mexican Restaurant to serve alcohol in a fenced-off section of the sidewalk.

The 3-1 vote to grant the encroachment came after a cascade of questions from Councilman David Gordon, who expressed dismay upon discovering that the city failed to notify property owners within 100 feet.

Guidelines for encroachments, adopted by the council in 1996, specify that “property owners within a 100-foot radius of the encroachment are to be notified prior to the granting of any encroachment agreements.”

“The purpose of that is to give people fair opportunity to come down and express [themselves], either for or against a project,” said Gordon, who cast the lone dissenting vote. “I am also concerned because I don’t know how it’s going to operate.”

The admonition prompted Mayor Gary Bric to question whether the vote should be postponed.

“It doesn’t say it has to be done before it’s approved, just before it’s effective,” City Atty. Dennis Barlow said. “We’ll make sure that it’s given before they can take full advantage of their permit.”

City officials on Friday confirmed that notices were sent this week to the three property owners within a 100-foot radius. Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford is expected to approve the permit.

“I am very partial to encouraging businesses coming to downtown, and I am very supportive going way back to Gordon Biersch, but once again, with all due respect, according to the guidelines we have in front of us today, I don’t accept that we give notice after its been granted when it says here that people are going to be notified prior to granting an encroachment agreement,” Gordon said.

While other restaurants in the city serve alcoholic beverages in fenced, outdoor areas, including Market City Café, Elephant Bar and Gordon Biersch Brewery, those seating areas are located on private property.

“If they want to object, certainly they have that opportunity to do that,” Barlow said.

The request this week for a permit to serve alcohol in the public right-of-way was the first downtown and the third overall. El Torito, in the 4000 block of Riverside Drive, and Don Cuco, in the 3900 block of West Riverside Drive were granted permits in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

The new Don Cuco, at 218 E. Orange Grove Ave., will include a patio with six tables and 18 chairs. It will be cordoned off by a series of planter boxes, rope and a 3-foot-high removable fence to comply with state regulations.

Because this is the first encroachment permit with alcohol in the commercially zoned downtown area, the permit is subject to city executive review every three months to ensure it’s being carried out in accordance with the terms of the agreement, said Sean Corrigan, chief assistant director for Public Works.

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