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Old Town business owners divided on park-use permit

City manager: Decision to approve permanent seating would be made by council
By: Bridget Jones Journal Staff Writer
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Local business owners sounded off Thursday about outdoor seating in Herschel Young Park. On July 8 the city issued a 30-day permit for Tsuda’s Old Town Eatery to use tables in the park, which is next to the restaurant. Alexandra Hastings-Carnahan, owner of Tsuda’s, has set up five wrought iron tables with chairs. The restaurant is offering a tapas and non-alcoholic drink menu service from 5 to 10:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Carnahan’s permit does not allow alcohol to be served in the park. Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson said the city can issue 30-day permits for outdoor seating in public areas. But if staff finds the seating to be appropriate after Carnahan’s permit expires on Aug. 9, the issue of whether or not the seating would become permanent would go before City Council. Richardson said the Old Town Business Association meeting Thursday was used as a way to inform members of the business association about the situation. “We reviewed where we were in the application process, reviewed how we’d gotten there and opened it up to questions,” Richardson said. Richardson said he originally spoke about the issue at the June Old Town Business Association meeting, but because it wasn’t an agenda item, no action could be taken at that time. “I came in to introduce the issue and they said, ‘It’s not an agenda item,’ which is perfectly understandable,” he said. “We chatted about it a bit and said, ‘Let’s come back in July,’ and that’s what we did.” Linda Robinson, president of the Old Town Business Association, said those who attended the meeting definitely had mixed ideas about the restaurant’s outdoor seating. “There was a lot of dialogue shared, pro and con,” Robinson said. “It was interesting to hear both sides. I think for the people attending the meeting, it was a 50/50 opinion. It was a very open dialogue, for the most part very friendly. A lot of stuff came up that needed to be said.” Robinson said she took a casual vote as to whether or not Tsuda’s should be allowed to extend its temporary permit period for a longer time to gauge how it would affect the business. “There were more hands raised for not extending the 30-day permit,” she said. Richardson said Tsuda’s is not being charged extra money for the outdoor seating, because it is public-use, that is any member of the public can use it at any time. It is not the property of Tsuda’s. Hastings-Carnahan said she thought the meeting was very productive. “I think it was a really good meeting,” Hastings-Carnahan said. “I think any forum which allows folks to share their opinions … is a really good thing to happen.” Hastings-Carnahan said she’s really excited about the outdoor seating. “I’m really looking forward to offering the public just a great option,” she said. “My goal is to offer something that will truly benefit all of Old Town. While alcohol service is something she thinks about, it’s not her immediate hope for the park, Hastings-Carnahan said. “It’s something to consider for the future, but it’s not something we are focusing on,” she said. Gary Moffat, who owns Carpe Vino in Old Town, said he thinks this situation is only benefiting one business. “I am categorically against one business taking over the use of the park,” Moffat said. “It’s absurd. It’s a very contentious issue. People seem to feel strongly one way or another.” Richardson said he has directed city staff to look into offering these types of permits for other businesses if space can be found. “I think there are opportunities,” he said. “We have to get creative and work in partnership with individual businesses.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com