City holds annual liquor license renewal review

March 13, 2020

Two Birmingham establishments, Townhouse and Rojo Mexican Bistro, will be returning to the Birmingham City Commission for a public hearing regarding the renewal of their 2020 liquor license after commissioners saw violations to their 2019 liquor license investigative summary on Monday, March 9.

Acting clerk Cheryl Arft informed commissioners the city commission is required by Chapter 10, Alcoholic Liquors, of the Birmingham Code of Ordinances to review the licenses of establishments which sell intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises in the city and to consider the renewal of those licenses. As part of that process, investigations of each licensed establishment were conducted by the building, planning, police, fire and finance departments to determine whether the licensees were in compliance with all applicable city and state codes.

While it was noted that Rojo owner Steve Simon had not paid city taxes or water bills, he has entered into a payment agreement with Oakland County, and a payment agreement with the city of Birmingham.

However, commissioners were disturbed about signage at adjacent Sidecar restaurant which does not comply with city ordinances, and improper storing of items on the patio, which Rojo had previously been warned about. Simon was not present at the commission meeting to answer questions, so commissioners set a public hearing for Monday, March 23, for him to appear to discuss the renewal of the liquor license.

Townhouse had not paid their outdoor dining fees, and neither owner Jeremy Sasson nor any other representative from Heirloom Hospitality was in attendance at the commission meeting to answer questions.

 Arft said the outdoor dining fees were paid to the city on Tuesday, March 10, but commissioners still set a public hearing for Monday, March 23, for Sasson to appear before the commission.

Other restaurants or bistros with questions from the past year were Hazel, Ravines and Downtown, which had delinquent water bills and not paid their July 2019 city taxes. However, prior to the commission meeting, they came in and settled their outstanding accounts.

Bistro Joe's and Toast each were cited for too many seats. Per the city's bistro ordinance, there cannot be more than 65 seats, no more than 10 at a bar.

There were two incidents in the past year at 220 Merrill that were of concern from the Birmingham Police Department, one of which involved an assault, the other, cocaine, where the restaurant did not provide the requested surveillance video.

Commissioners expressed to owner Zaid Elia their displeasure, and Elia said he had not been notified by his staff in a timely fashion. He said 220 only keeps their surveillance video for 24 hours, so by the time he became aware of it, it was no longer available.

Elia said he has since provided his personal contact information to officers in order to reach him directly at any time.

Commissioners approved the renewal for 2020, of all Class B, Class C and microbrewery licenses, 7-0, other than Townhouse and Rojo, pending their appearance on March 23.

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