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Bistro Joe’s resolves seating issues with Birmingham

By Grace Lovins

During the third public hearing on the liquor license renewal for Bistro Joe’s on Monday, April 15, Birmingham city commissioners voted to add a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to the special land use permit of the bistro which was found in violation of its permit prior to liquor license renewals this year.

The city held the annual liquor license renewal public hearing during the February 12 meeting, during which multiple bistros were said to have some issue found during the city’s inspection. Bistro Joe’s, the eatery located inside Papa Joe’s on 34244 Woodward, was said to have issues with their parking lot, dumpster screening and excessive indoor seating.

Another public hearing was held during the March 18 meeting for commissioners to decide if they wanted to file an objection to these bistros’ license applications with the state liquor commission. Planning director Nick Dupuis stated during the March hearing that Bistro Joe’s dumpster and parking lot issues were being addressed, but he found evidence that the mezzanine intended for Papa Joe’s employees was being used by Bistro Joe’s customers. Bistro Joe’s had been using almost 50 seats more than what was permitted under their special land use permit, according to city officials.

Commissioners decided to not file an objection to the bistro’s liquor license application, but they voted to have Bistro Joe’s return to another commission meeting so they could decide if they felt the special land use permit had been violated. City staff was also instructed to create a memorandum of understanding for the owner of the bistro to sign, adding an extra layer that says Bistro Joe’s is going to do better in abiding by the rules, said city attorney Mary Kucharek.

Dupuis explained that in the time between meetings, he returned to Bistro Joe’s to meet with Tony Curtis, Papa Joe's and Bistro Joe's owner, and noted that when he returned, they met the seating requirement. He also said additional signage had been put up around the mezzanine explicitly telling customers that the seating area is not for Bistro Joe’s customers.

Most commissioners said they were comfortable moving forward with or without the memorandum given that the bistro had addressed the issues that had been brought up.

“At the last meeting, I was in support of the MOU because there seemed to have been a pattern to the use of the place that Mr. Dupuis noticed, and the initial response from the applicant was to imply that Mr. Dupuis was wrong and that was concerning to me,” said commissioner Therese Longe. “I think that the process of having the site visit and developing the MOU was useful and had its intended effect.”

Others stated they didn’t see the necessity in adding the MOU to the permit considering this was a first-time violation, albeit a rather large violation. Commissioner Anthony Long said he felt the situation could be a slippery slope if the commission were to get in the habit of adding the memorandum for first time violations.

Commissioners voted 4-3 to add the memorandum to the bistro’s special land use permit, with commissioners Long, Katie Schafer and mayor Elaine McLain voting against the motion. All three stated during discussions that they didn’t feel the memorandum was necessary in this case.


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