Friday, July 25, 2014

In Ketchum LI, restaurantís request to stay open late stirs debate

Bigwood Bread owner seeks permission to operate past 9 p.m.

Express Staff Writer

Bigwood Bread owner George Golleher checks on a commercial bread oven he had installed in his new restaurant and bakery on Northwood Way in Ketchum. Photo by Willy Cook

    With Bigwood Bread Café’s new facility in the Ketchum light-industrial district north of downtown almost complete, owner George Golleher wants to extend the business’ hours of operation once it opens. Following a decision Monday by the Ketchum City Council to strike the 9 p.m. food/beverage service cut-off in part of the light-industrial zone—now making it contingent upon individual case review by the Planning and Zoning Commission—Golleher is closer to his goal.
    Golleher and his family own and manage the original café and bakery in the Sockeye Building across the street, which closes at 3 p.m., and the downtown breakfast and lunch location, after buying the business about seven years ago.
    Golleher and his lawyer Jim Laski applied for a text amendment to strike the 9 p.m. cut-off time for food and beverage service in the Light Industrial-2 district listed in the Ketchum Zoning Code. All small food-retail businesses—with up to 500 square feet of gross floor area—are permitted in the LI-2 district, but must obtain conditional use permits to have a restaurant. Restaurants in the LI-2, of which there now is only one, cannot have more than 1,000 square feet of gross floor space.
    In a letter to Ketchum city planners from Laski on March 19, he requested a text amendment for the time cut-off.
    “Allowing limited restaurant use in the LI zone to not be constrained by limited hours merely benefits the residents who live [in] the zone as well as businesses and their employees,” Laski wrote. “The time limitation impacts the ability of such a business to survive and unnecessarily restricts access to the offered services to local residents and help existing business to survive.”

The time limitation impacts the ability of such a business to survive and unnecessarily restricts access to the offered services to local residents and help existing business to survive.”
Jim Laski
Attorney for Bigwood Bread

    Following the amendment’s second reading, the Ketchum City Council passed the code change with a 3-1 vote on Monday, July 21, with Councilwoman Annie Corrock voting against it. The council did a first reading of the proposed text amendment Monday, July 7. Council members had the option of waiving the second and third readings, but they elected to continue discussions at Monday’s meeting.
    There was a strong showing of support for Golleher by local residents and fellow LI-2 business and property owners. Planning and Zoning Commissioner Steve Cook was the only speaker against the text change, arguing that Ketchum needs to maintain the integrity of the industrial districts. Cook’s wife owns Cristina’s restaurant in downtown Ketchum.  
    Mayor Nina Jonas said that everyone has a stake in Ordinance 1118 and there were no parties without self-interest in the ordinance changing or staying the same.
    Councilman Baird Gourlay, referencing the many mechanical and construction uses of the LI districts, echoed many of Cook’s concerns, but voted in favor of making later closing times a conditional use. However, he said that allowing Bigwood Bread to stay open later would be the “last cow in the pasture” as far as he was concerned, in order to protect small businesses and property costs.
    The next step for Golleher will be working with the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission to get a conditional use permit to serve past 9 p.m. He’ll need to fill out an application and go on the P&Z agenda, City Planner Joyce Allgaier said.
    Any restaurant that opens in the LI-2 district can appeal to the P&Z for later operational hours, following the City Council’s decision this week.
    Walking through the Sockeye Building, it’s clear that the bakery and retail space has outgrown its space. Golleher inherited the existing conditional use permit when he bought the business. His daughter Carly Tempest manages Bigwood operations with her husband, Bryan. Tempest and Golleher say that most mornings there’s a long line winding out the door of the Sockeye location into the parking lot.
  Golleher worked closely with the Ketchum Planning Department to construct the new café-bakery-office site across the street on Northwood Way. He built it “green”—from using wood from a sustainable forest to energy-saving appliances and insulation. The expansive space has a retail and restaurant component in the front, coming in at just under 1,500 square feet, a large bakery in the back, complete with a custom-made French oven and a pastry room, and office space on the second floor. He estimates the building and equipment cost of the new space at approximately $4.5 million.
    To maximize his returns, Golleher said he won’t reopen the retail space in the light-industrial district if he can’t stay open past 9 p.m. He plans to sell the Sockeye Building bakery and retail space once his new building is finished, moving the bakery over and, he hopes, the retail/restaurant space, too.
    Golleher maintains that the light-industrial districts have become much more of a mixed-use zone in the past few years, with an increasing number of residences in the area.
    Pub and burger joint Grumpy’s is located in the LI-1 zone, which also mandates a 9 p.m. food and beverage curfew. Business owner Pete Prekeges agrees with Golleher, as he thinks the light-industrial districts should be rezoned to accommodate mixed uses. He said it would be unfair to only rezone one of the two light-industrial districts.
    “As a business owner in LI-1, which borders the commercial core, they are asking for a change for their zone, and bypassing the one Grumpy’s is in,” he said in an email. “If we are going to change a zoning, skipping the zone closest to the commercial core zone to allow them to open later while we are still under the old restrictions doesn’t seem logical.”
    City Planner Joyce Allgaier worked with Bigwood on the creation of its new space, but she said the city will need to work to maintain the integrity of the commercial core.
    “The city will need to be very careful with the uses in our industrial district as that land area within the city is very important for our light-industrial, service uses, and as an employment center,” Allgaier said. “And, of course, we do not want the uses in the industrial area to compete with the restaurant, retail, and entertainment aspects of our commercial core of the downtown.”
    Meg Vorm, owner of the downtown Cornerstone Bar and Grill, said while she’s not against Golleher’s attempts to create an off-the-beaten-path dinner location for Ketchum residents and visitors, “he knew what restrictions were in place before he built [his new location].”
    She also maintains that an unequal financial situation could occur with overhead business costs, as the commercial core is subject to higher rents.  
    “If there’s an area of town where rent is cheaper, you have an advantage,” she said.  

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