Source: Sherman Publications

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Concerns nearly kill new business

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

July 06, 2011

With streetscape essentially finished, the introduction of new businesses seems almost natural with the rebirth of Lake Orion Village.

On June 27, one such new business was nearly denied entry into downtown.

Don Gindhart, of Troy, has been in talks with Lake Orion's Downtown Development Authority to open the 51 N. Broadway Brewing Company, in the DDA's current building. The brewery, which will require a liquor license, drew a fair amount of controversy from three Village Council members at the June 27 meeting. The members - Douglass Dendel, David Churchill, and Douglas Hobbs - all worried about aspects usually associated with a bar including loud music, heavy traffic, and intoxicated patrons.

Because of their concerns, they voted against a motion to approve an entertainment application for the fledgling business. An absence of Council member Micheal Toth saw the vote tied and the nays prevail, nearly setting Gindhart's efforts back by months if not longer. The only way the subject can be readdressed after a nay vote majority is if one of the no voters motions to readdress the issue.

After nearly an hour of challenges from attendees in support of Gindhart, the issue was instead tabled for a June 11 meeting.

The introduction of the business began with presentations and speeches from Gindhart and Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh.

"Theres always a question about what's microbrewery, and that's why I handed out that presentation, because its really a different beast," said Gindhart. "We don't have 21-year-old kids coming in to get their buckets of beer, making a lot of noise and being a nuisance. My sound system has been used twice at Sagebrush and both times we were asked to plug into their sound system because we were too quiet.

"I'm 49, I've been doing this a long time, and I understand I have neighbors, who I will reach out to to figure out how I do things. We're going to be a big part of this community and a mature part of the community."

Gene Carlson, chairman of the Lake Orion DDA also spoke to lengths about the business, saying the business is "economic redevelopment at it's best."

"This is a functioning but obsolete building, and he wants to put $185,000 into the building and make it into a nice restaurant and bar," said Carlson. "I think he also said he will be adding 15 jobs, and I think it's just a win win situation for everybody."

Narsh presented his background investigation, calling it stellar and adding he was excited about the business. His only concerns were about the introduction of a sound system at the plot of land planned for the brewery, which he intended to follow up on.

The first concern came from Dendel, who worried about the lack attention paid to the area of an entertainment approval form that included permission to include topless dancing. He also expressed concerns over the location of the building, saying there was no buffer between the business and residential zones.

"The problem is under entertainment you never know how broad that is, you know, and whether it includes lap dancing or not and all kinds of other stuff," said Dendel. "(The form) mentions that dancing entertainment and topless entertainment, so I guess what I'm asking is, it says right in the beginning they want our approval and thats where I have a problem where something isn't checked off, so I guess thats where I have a problem, and I think 'not recommend' should be checked off."

Village President Ken Van Profliet was quick to note Narsh would not only be wary of preventing that issue but that he would do what is best for downtown Lake Orion.

"The way they do their forms is they list all the possible activities that a bar can do, then they have box's where the applicant can request certain activities," explained Narsh. "Since the topless was not checked, i do not recommend or recommend it because it's not being requested.

"I would never be in favor of anything that would allow topless entertainment in downtown Lake Orion, and I hope everyone in the room would know that about me."

Gindhart again took the stand to offer an assuagement .

"We are a family run, community based organization," said Gindhart. "My daughter is 17, I'm not going to put anything in there that will be offensive to anyone.

"We worked hard on these forms, I assure you I'm not looking for loopholes."

Hobbs was next to address his concern about the proximity of an alcohol serving business to the Keep Coming Back Club. This time Carlson spoke and expressed concern over allowing one business to determine what is allowed in the downtown.

Churchill then expressed his concerns, particularly the proximity of the business to residential zones and the live music planned. Gindhart responded by reiterating his earlier stance on working with his neighbors.

After the motion to approve the license failed, members in the crowd began taking the podium to express their disappointment and anger at the decision.

"My mother is a member of the keep coming back club, we have lunch at sagebrush and I want to see this community grow and thrive," said Orion Township resident Julie Maurer. "I hear you saying no to things that don't need to be said no to and instead of no's lets throw out proposals so we can continue to work towards success.

"This is a really great opportunity and to say no to it is just shutting the door on our community."

More commenters followed, taking up around an hour of the meeting before Dendel motioned to table the matter rather than dismiss it.

The topic is scheduled to be readdressed at the July 11 meeting.