Request for sidewalk dining tabled

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Aldermen did not act on a request for railing an outdoor dining area at Bowie&8217;s on the Broadway Street side of the building but, rather, agreed to study ways to make sure their approval was ordinance- and permit-based specifically for that location.

Walter Brown, city attorney, said a provision in the open-container law allows for sidewalk cafes. However, the Bowie&8217;s request calls for enclosing a part of a public sidewalk.

&8220;This is different because it would be gated on certain occasions,&8221; Brown said.

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He also said the city would be concerned about amplified music in the area. &8220;We need to work out a permit adaptable to this particular site.&8221;

John Holyoak, manager of the sister properties Dunleith and Bowie&8217;s, said the railing primarily is to satisfy requirements by the state&8217;s liquor-licensing agency.

&8220;We would take only 30 inches of the sidewalk. That will still allow a 5-foot passageway for anyone walking in the area,&8221; Holyoak said.

Further, the rails will not be gated at all in the daytime and only on certain occasions in the evening when large crowds are in the tavern.

The requested change will not affect the volume of the music, Holyoak said.

&8220;Right now, the doors are open in the evening in the summer. We try to be good neighbors and are not looking for booming music to be coming out of our business.&8221;

Ruthie Coy, who lives next door to Bowie&8217;s at 107 S. Broadway, said she feared the precedent being set if the business is allowed to rail off part of the sidewalk.

&8220;First of all, I am not opposed to outdoor dining,&8221; she said. &8220;But there is a difference between outdoor dining and outdoor bar. I&8217;m opposed to that and opposed to taking away the public sidewalks.&8221;

Attorney Tim Waycaster, representing Bowie&8217;s, said the establishment is not asking to &8220;take away any of the sidewalk.&8221;

Waycaster said the issue of precedent does not apply, as there are few places in Natchez that are in the same situation as Bowie&8217;s.

Ron Miller, executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, said he assisted with the design of the rail and he agrees with the concept that outdoor cafes create vibrancy in a downtown.

&8220;But you must make sure not to increase the noise in the area and not block access to the public area,&8221; Miller said.

Attorney Brown said any approval of the city of the railings should &8220;not in any way be considered to be an abandonment of the sidewalk by the city.&8221;