URBANA – Despite some qualms, the Urbana City Council voted tentatively Monday night to move forward on a proposal to allow an open-air bar on the second floor of the downtown parking deck on weekends.
In an 8-0 voice vote, council members instructed city officials to continue negotiating a draft lease with Urbana bar owners Ian Goldberg and Scott Glassman, who are calling the proposed outdoor bar the Upper Deck. It would be in the western part of the parking deck's second floor.
The motion calls for the city to pay for an independent sound check to make sure live music wouldn't disturb patrons of the nearby Historic Lincoln Hotel. Council members also said they want to be able to cancel the lease after the first year if the arrangement doesn't work out.
"We need some 'out' if we find from our constituents this is untenable," said Alderwoman Lynne Barnes, D-Ward 7, who suggested the clause.
According to the draft lease, which is still being negotiated, Goldberg and Glassman would have control of part of the parking deck from 5 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday. The lease would run from May 26 to Oct. 29.
Goldberg said he expects the beer garden wouldn't begin operating until somewhere between 6 and 8 p.m. each weekend night, though the lease would allow business to start at 10 a.m.. Live music would have to end at 12:30 a.m., and patrons would have to leave by 1:30 a.m.
Goldberg estimated the capacity of the beer garden would be about 200 people.
During daytime hours on the weekend, one possibility being discussed is that not-for-profit organizations could contract with the Upper Deck to use the facility.
Council members had a number of questions and concerns, but most seemed enthused about the possibilities.
"As I talk to the public, everyone wants it," said Brandon Bowersox, D-Ward 4. "Everyone is so excited about this venue."
Dennis Roberts, D-Ward 5, said younger people in the community seem excited about the idea.
But he also noted that the proposal alarms and concerns others.
"Most of the people who have concerns ... when change comes to a community, you want to embrace it, but it scares you," Roberts said.
Some downtown residents and business people spoke out in opposition to the Upper Deck idea.
Carolyn Baxley, a downtown businesswoman who owns the Cinema Gallery and who served eight years on the city's planning commission, said the proposal is a bad idea.
She said she was concerned that having a large outdoor music venue "puts the Historic Lincoln Hotel at tremendous risk since much of their revenue is generated on weekends."
Even if the music's volume is kept within reasonable limits, "there will be absolutely no way to keep the noise from the 200 to 400 projected drinkers in check," she said.
Baxley, who with her husband also owns the building at 115 W. Main St., which is next to the parking deck, said the loss of parking from the proposal could hurt downtown businesses.
"You need to keep in mind that Saturday is always the busiest shopping/sales day for Main and Race street retailers," Baxley said. "If our on-street and deck parking is taken up by a large venue like this at any time that day, our businesses will be put in jeopardy."
David Kraft said his business and residence are at 133 W. Main St., adjacent to the parking deck.
"I'm very concerned about the noise," he said. "I know I sleep less than 100 feet from the parking deck. ... To me, it sounds like we'll have Unofficial St. Patrick's Day every weekend for five months a year."