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Mad Hatter to become Bell Bistro in downtown

By Lisa Brody


Say goodbye to the Mad Hatter Bistro in Birmingham and hello to Bell Bistro.


The Birmingham Planning Board gave a unanimous recommendation for approval for the special land use permit and final site plan and design review to the owners of Mad Hatter Bistro to become Bell Bistro, 185 N. Old Woodward, offering sophisticated American fare, at its meeting on Wednesday, May 25.


Birmingham planner Leah Blizinski said the owner of Mad Hatter, Randy Dickow, has an existing bistro with “an outdoor dining permit that is no longer feasible due to the changing streetscape.” There is no change of ownership, but there is a change in the name, interior layout, building facade, menu and outdoor dining area.


Blizinski explained currently Mad Hatter is a bistro with 65 interior seats, nine of which are at the bar. The new proposal includes an interior renovation which will adjust the seating to 34 interior seats on the main level with 10 seats at the bar and 20 dining seats on the lower level, for a total of 64 interior seats. Outdoors, they are proposing one table with four seats surrounded by a railing topped by purple hydrangea. They plan to change their doors to a nano-wall.


Blizinski said proposed hours would be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday.


Acting chair Bryan Williams was concerned the plans were missing several details, as it was a final site plan request. Planning director Nicholas Dupuis said there will be two more reviews of the bistro change, before first the historic design review committee, and then the city commission, which gives final approvals.


Kelly Allen, attorney for the applicant, said the new name is “paying homage to the original owner of the building, Samuel Oliver Wylie Bell.”


She noted that when the city redid the streetscape along Old Woodward, Mad Hatter lost its outdoor dining as there is no current space for it to have a dining platform.


“We were encouraged, and we did, reach out to Paris Baguette,” she said. “They have no reason to give up their outdoor space.


“You know four seats are not going to cut it. We are going to come back, and we are hopeful we can work something out for outdoor dining,” Allen said.


Board members voted 6-0, with chair Scott Clein absent, to recommend approval of the special land use permit, final site plan and design review.

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