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City halts construction at Mare Mediterranean

By Lisa Brody

Announced changes at Birmingham restaurant Mare Mediterranean, 115 Willits Avenue, have been halted by the city as the owners of the restaurant had not applied or acquired the necessary permits, city officials reported.


According to outgoing Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus, the city was first made aware of proposed changes to Mare Mediterranean on May 18 “when an email was forwarded from the city attorney (Mary Kucharek) requesting some information about a request she received for a dance permit from Mare Mediterranean's counsel, Kelly Allen. The email stated that Mare had applied (and was approved for) a dance permit by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC), and that they did not want to move forward without approval from the city.”


He noted that Kucharek followed up with planning director Nicholas DuPuis to discuss what procedures Mare would have take in order to add a dancing area to their approved special land use permit (SLUP) for the restaurant, should they decide to do so. Mare's proposed changes include the removal of approximately 21 seats to create a dance area adjacent to the bar, the addition of a DJ in the new dance area, as well as the removal of some booth seating to add moveable tables.


According to the city's SLUP amendment ordinance in the zoning code, "once a permit for a special land use has been granted as to any parcel of land, no change in that use may be made nor may any addition to or change in the building or improvements on the parcel of land take place until a new request for approval has been filed with the City Commission and the City Commission has approved the request for change."


Further language in the zoning code includes standards which direct the city's planning board and city commission to review any SLUP changes and make sure that those changes “will not be injurious to the surrounding neighborhood" and that "the use is consistent with the public health, safety and welfare of the city."


On Friday, May 19, Markus reported, Mare owner Nino Cutraro met with assistant building official Mike Morad on site regarding his desire to add a pizza oven to the existing kitchen; there reportedly was no discussion about adding a dance floor. Then on Sunday, May 21, the Detroit Free Press published a story indicating that Mare Mediterranean would be closing for two weeks starting the next day to undergo remodeling and prepare for a new menu. The article went on to state that a new pizza oven would be added, along with a dancing area with DJ entertainment after 10:30 p.m.


On Monday, May 22, the city did a site inspection of the restaurant and discovered demolition was taking place without a permit and new walls were being framed in. Cutraro was informed no more work could take place and a cease work order was implemented. The cease work order still remains in effect.


Incoming city manager Jana Ecker said Cutraro has submitted revised site plans to the city and the county health department and has applied for permits, and they will be permitted to have a pizza oven installed – but not a dance floor. She said it is understood they will also remain a fish and seafood restaurant.


“We will not allow them to put in a dance floor or a DJ or a disco ball, unless they get a special land use permit amendment, which they would have to go through the process of going before the planning board and then the city commission,” Ecker said.

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