SALT LAKE CITY -- Tucked between a house and a barber shop in Salt Lake City is just enough room for breakfast, lunch and dinner inside the Avenues Bistro on Third.
“Our opening date was Feb. 29, on Leap Year, 2012,” said restaurant owner, Kathie Chadbourne.
The bistro is Chadbourne’s first restaurant. It’s a place where she’s quite literally put down roots in a garden and watched business grow for the last couple years.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Chadbourne said. “It’s been wonderful. It’s been really wonderful.”
That is, until things suddenly slowed for her last fall when the city ordered her to shut down the eatery’s outdoor patio due to resident complaints about parking and noise.
“Closing the patio cut our business in half, more than in half,” Chadbourne said. “It fit 30, 30 more customers. That’s double the dining room.”
Chadbourne’s place is considered a non-conforming restaurant because it is located in a residential area. The zoning not only prevents her from having outdoor seating, but she also can’t apply for any through the city.
When she first opened the restaurant, Chadbourne wasn’t even aware of the rule.
The issue brought Chadbourne to Tuesday evening’s city council meeting.
“It’s been an incredible privilege to have this little bistro on 3rd Avenue,” said Chadbourne, standing before a packed room.
The council held a public hearing to discuss a proposal to amend the zoning code, in order to allow restaurants, like Chadbourne’s, the chance to apply for outdoor seating.
It’s a request that drew a mixed reaction from her neighbors in the Avenues.
“When a community comes together and enjoys something as much as they do the Avenues Bistro, I think it should be allowed,” said Charles Davidson, a 16-year resident of the neighborhood.
But because of the eatery’s popularity, residents across the street and directly behind it have noticed increased traffic and crowding. When the patio was open some contend the problems were only exacerbated.
“The impacts were intense, highly disruptive, difficult to mitigate and extremely difficult to bear,” said one resident. “We desire outdoor dining in our neighborhoods, but we need them in locations that are sustainable. And that should be determined not by popularity, but by suitability.”
But Chadbourne is hoping the council will be open to her request, and that her neighbors will agree to make room for her business in the future.
“I want to fit into the neighborhood. From day one, when I signed the lease, I wanted this to be something that all the neighbors would embrace,” Chadbourne said.
The council will make a decision on the amendment at their next formal meeting.