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Proposal could ease restrictions on Edgerton beer gardens

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
August 27, 2010
— Local taverns could be allowed to operate late-night, outdoor beer gardens within 100 feet of people’s homes if the Edgerton city council approves a set of zoning changes forwarded this week by the city’s planning commission.

The zoning changes are aimed at making rules for beer gardens and outdoor eating areas at bars and restaurants less restrictive in the wake of the statewide indoor smoking ban, city officials said.


City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said with the state smoking ban in place since July 5, city planners have had to respond to an increased demand for outdoor seating at local bars and restaurants.


2 Brothers Bar and Grill, 112 W. Fulton St., is the only Edgerton bar with a beer garden, but other business owners have asked the city about adding outdoor seating, Flanigan said.


“We have to write an ordinance that deals with people in the future that could be putting in anything, a coffee shop, a restaurant, who could imagine,” Flanigan said.


Under a city ordinance that regulates outdoor entertainment, businesses located less than 300 feet from residential areas can’t have beer gardens or outdoor eating areas.


Meanwhile, two existing neighborhood bars, the Decoy, at 1105 N. Main St., and the Sand Trap Bar and Grill, at 520 N. Main Street, are both within 300 feet of residences.


Neither bar has made a formal request for a permit for outdoor seating, though Flanigan said owners at Decoy’s had made recent inquiries about getting a beer garden.


“We’re trying to find an answer. Our ordinances won’t allow for these things, and there’s a need for them,” Flanigan said.


Following a public hearing Tuesday, the city’s planning commission unanimously approved a proposal that would allow restaurants and bars to have outdoor seating areas, provided they’re fenced in and are built at least 100 feet from the nearest residential area.


Under the proposal, the outdoor areas could remain open until a half an hour before closing time. In Edgerton, bars are allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. on weeknights and 2:30 a.m. on weekends.


Under the proposal, live music would have to be shut down at beer gardens at 10 p.m. downtown and at 9 p.m. elsewhere in the city.


The proposal follows a July 27 proposal on beer gardens by the planning commission. It was rejected by the city council, mainly because it called for beer gardens to have a closing time of 10 p.m. on weekends and 9 p.m. on weeknights, which some council members said would be restrictive to business.


Mayor Chris Lund, who also heads the planning commission, said input from a crowd of 50 residents at Tuesday’s hearing led to the commission softening its earlier proposal.


“People (at the hearing) that spoke in favor of more leeway had some effect on our decision,” he said.


Lund said no one has publicly spoken out against the beer garden proposal.


The city council will have a first reading on the proposal Tuesday, Sept. 7. They won’t vote on it until a second reading, which would be at a later date, officials said.


Ilir Banushi, who owns 2 Brothers Bar and Grill, said since the state’s indoor smoking ban started, his outdoor customers have increased 25 percent, with between 75 and 100 people using his beer garden on weekend nights.


Despite the increased traffic, Banushi said he hasn’t had any noise problems outside.


Police Chief Tom Klubertanz said the city has had eight noise complaints for downtown bars within the last year and that none of the complaints have come since the indoor smoking ban started.


“It isn’t a big issue and definitely hasn’t been since the smoking ban went into place,” Klubertanz said.


Banushi said he doesn’t have live music at his beer garden and said his customers aren’t noisy.


“The thing about this business district is you’re downtown. So if someone signs a lease to an apartment here, they know going into it that there’s a bar in front of them,” Banushi said.



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