Casa Pernoi year-round outdoor dining okayed
By Grace Lovins
Casa Pernoi Italian restaurant, located at 310 E. Maple, received unanimous approval for a special land use permit, final site plan and design from the Birmingham City Commission on Monday, July 11, that will enable the bistro to offer year-round outdoor dining.
Occupying the space that once housed Café Via, the bistro was left with an isinglass enclosure covering the outdoor dining area in the private alley. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, isinglass became prohibited following an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance.
The Birmingham Planning Board had maintained that isinglass could not be permitted because it promotes year-round outdoor dining since Casa Pernoi's bistro application process began in 2018. During the planning board meeting on May 28, the board held their position, saying they support the outdoor seating arrangement but were still not in support of the isinglass enclosure, and they did not recommend approval to the city commission.
Isinglass has been addressed by board of zoning appeals (BZA) and the city commission, however the bistro was able to gain approval for a variance from the zoning ordinance from the BZA on June 14. After the variance was granted, Casa Pernoi was able to move forward with its application pending approval from the city commission.
With the isinglass enclosure, Casa Pernoi will have a total of 64 seats for outdoor dining, adding an additional 38 unenclosed seats to the via plaza adjacent to the restaurant. Twenty-six seats of the total 64 outdoor seats will remain inside the isinglass enclosure and will continue to be considered as outdoor dining.
Commissioner Clinton Baller questioned the reasoning behind the BZA's’ decision for granting the variance allowing Casa Pernoi to maintain the isinglass structure. The variance was allowed due to the location of the site, noting difficulty of the construction in the alley and screening portions of the restaurant from the weather.