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Outdoor deck for 220 okayed with stipulations

By Lisa Rose Hook


The popular 220 Merrill restaurant, located at 220 Merrill Street in downtown Birmingham, requested to build an outdoor dining platform to accommodate their patrons, with approval by the city commission at their meeting on Monday, May 9.


A public hearing took place covering the special land use permit amendment, final site plan and design review for the request of the new dining deck, and the resolution passed with the condition that the business return in July to review concerns brought up by citizens and city officials in attendance. Their current outdoor dining patio includes seating for 78 at 23 tables.


During the pandemic, the restaurant was approved for expanded outdoor dining pursuant to the temporary outdoor dining expansion, involving the addition of a 480 square foot platform taking up three metered parking spaces in front of the restaurant. 220 submitted the SLUP application seeking permanent approval of this area.


The conditions set forth by the commission included removal of all existing planter boxes and hanging planters proposed on the new fence, which are on public property, and relocation to private property. The establishment must also install standard city grates over existing tree boxes along the right-of-way adjacent to the building.


There was considerable debate over the final decor planned for the outdoor platform, as well as the amount of space being taken away from street parking by the platform and valet stand. Initially, pink chairs and yellow umbrellas were designed for the location, a decision that met with some opposition from mayor pro tem Pierre Boutros, who suggested that, "The city should consider a historic committee opinion about color palette."


Other objections were raised during public comment by Birmingham resident Rick Gould, a long-time resident of the Merrillwood apartments across the street at 211 E. Merrill. Gould stated that he is opposed to the proposed valet parking in the alley behind the restaurant.


"The alley behind Merrill and Pierce is a disaster," he asserted. "When it rains, it's like Quarton Lake. It [valet parking] is bad for the vendors, people making deliveries and the people who live here."


Gould also noted that he was concerned the platform would draw more traffic and noise.


"People come down with their new fancy cars and revved up engines ... and the motorcycles with big radios – you can hear them in Shain Park. We put up with noise, noise, noise," he said.


Birmingham resident and attorney David Potts stated, "It is a problem ... it is very nosy [but] frankly I don't know what you can do.”


Zaid Elia, owner of 220 Merrill Restaurant, shared that his goal is to work with everyone, including the city's advisory parking committee. He agreed to a change of colors for the tables and umbrellas to be consistent with the city's historic guidelines. He said that the platform could be built within two days.


Boutros pointed out that residing in a vibrant and lively city such as Birmingham is accompanied by noise, to a reasonable degree, but encouraged the approval of the platform, noting that 220 Merrill has been a strong and successful business, contributing to the aesthetic of the city and commending its longevity and the commerce it brings to the city.


Commissioners voted 5-1, with commissioner Andrew Haig voting against and Mayor Therese Longe recused, to approve the final site plan, design review and the amendment for the special land use permit, with a review set for July.


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