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  • By Lisa Brody

New entertainment spot okayed by planners

The Morrie, a dining and entertainment venue for the former Au Cochon and Arthur Avenue locations in the Palladium Building on Old Woodward in Birmingham, received unanimous final site plan and special land use permit recommendation approvals from the Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday, March 28.

Planner Matt Baka informed board members that the applicant, Aaron Belen of AFB Hospitality Group, is planning to combine both sites, located at 260 N. Old Woodward, for a restaurant that will be almost 8,000 square feet, have 214 indoor seats and 16 outdoor seats on a raised platform. The two front doors would be maintained, Baka said, as will the nanowall windows, which allow for open air dining during nicer months.

Inside, 33 of the proposed seats will surround a large central bar, with a raised performance stage behind, which will showcase live bands and other live entertainment, similar to Belen's Royal Oak restaurant, The Morrie. In both locations, The Morrie is a casual restaurant serving eclectic neighborhood and roadhouse-style cuisine.

Planning director Jana Ecker explained that a change in an ordinance by the Birmingham City Commission this past winter, for anything serving alcohol requiring a special land use permit, makes monitoring easier for police and the city. “It stops bad behavior sooner,” she said. “For you, you don't have to be as concerned with the type of entertainment, because they now have a mechanism to control it.”

The music is designed to “span the generations,” Baka said, noting the applicant said the entertainment hours “are an integral part of The Morrie experience.

Kevin Biddison, of Biddison Architecture, said, “We feel we are simplifying a bit of a cluttered exterior. The Morrie, in general, is going to be a really fun place to go. It'll be good food and a little bit of fun and family.”

Keith Schofield, director of operations for AFB Hospitality, concurred. “It's affordable. It's family-oriented. It's not a nightclub – it's more mature. It's date night.”

Board member Bert Kosceck asked, “How can you do it up the street? Isn't it competing with one another?”

“We have made some changes to the menu in Birmingham. We are tweaking the concept to be successful,”Schofield replied. “We are offering something that is not available. Our current market is Royal Oak, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge. We believe we're going to skew a little higher in Birmingham.”

He noted they serve food late on Fridays and Saturdays, with live entertainment starting at 10:30 p.m. “Then it turns into the after-dinner crowd,” he said. “Once we hit 10:30, we feel it's a place for 21 and over.”

He said they have on-staff a director of security. “We have been a really good steward of business for the city of Royal Oak.”

“In order to make an 8,000 square foot restaurant work, I think you need to have something other than food. I like this. It's fun. I think it can succeed,” said board member Janelle Whipple-Boyce.

Fellow board member Stuart Jeffares agreed. “We've had a dire need for this kind of operation and entertainment.”

The Morrie will now go before the city commission for final approvals at a later date.

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