Ogden waiting to decide definitions, conditions for Paris Cafe

Mar 14 2013 - 3:58pm

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Ernie McKown looks out the front window of his Paris Cafe, a non-alcohol music venue at 329 24th St. in Ogden in January 2012. (CHARLES TRENTELMAN/Standard-Examiner)
Ernie McKown looks out the front window of his Paris Cafe, a non-alcohol music venue at 329 24th St. in Ogden in January 2012. (CHARLES TRENTELMAN/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- Legal live music and dancing at Ernie McKown's Paris Cafe will have to wait at least another two weeks.

The Ogden City Council voted Tuesday night to table a proposal that provides new definitions to the terms "lodge" and "social hall" and provides several conditions for the approval of a social hall to be used in C-1, C-2 and C-3 zones.

Under the proposal, a social hall will be allowed in the aforementioned zones if the facility features live music at a maximum of only two days per week and closes at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Several other stipulations, like a ban on alcohol, will be required as well.

The proposal would allow McKown, owner of the cafe, to feature live music events at his establishment.

The council will consider allowing McKown to have the live music under a conditional-use permit. The council will also further discuss what time is suitable for the cafe to close at night.

The all-ages live music venue is at the Harrison Plaza shopping center, 3155 Harrison Blvd. -- a C-2 zone.

The plaza itself remains something of a headache for Ogden.

The city's long-range plans call for a redevelopment of the plaza by turning it into a mixed-use center with a large transit stop, but it remains badly in need of renovations and has a lot of vacant space.

McKown thinks his cafe can add some much-needed shine to the rundown plaza, and he has been working hard to prove it.

In late October, after McKown filed a petition to change the city's definition of a lodge or social hall, the city council voted to uphold a recommendation by the city's planning commission to deny changing a zoning ordinance so it would allow live bands, dancing and other entertainment at the venue.

But after some prodding from McKown and a request from the council for the city to create clearer definitions and standards for approval for the lodge and social hall uses, the issue resurfaced.

"I was asking for something very simple," McKown said. "Help me find a way to have live music, because without it, I can't pay my rent. I can't stay open."

Earlier this year, the planning commission voted 5-2 to approve the most recent proposal. Commissioner Ron Atencio recused himself from the vote because he owns Mojos, an all-ages live music venue in downtown Ogden.

During the lag time between the council's October denial and the planning commission's January approval, McKown said he held several live music events, knowing that he was going against city code.

"My business doubled and tripled," he said. "And I had to do it to stay alive."

Shortly after the shows, McKown said Ogden city issued him a cease-and-desist order on the live music and he has since quit allowing it at the cafe.

He now hopes the council, which will vote on the matter March 26, will give him the go-ahead to bring back the guitars, drums and bass.

"I can wait two weeks," McKown said.

"When I had those few live shows, we didn't have them every night, or even every weekend, but because the kids knew it was a live-music venue, they came in more often to hang out. And that's what will continue to happen if they allow live music."

Several Ogden residents, nearby business owners and Paris Cafe patrons stood before the council Thursday night, voicing their support for live music.

"It's a much better venue for the kids than anywhere downtown, next to the bars," said Ogden resident Chris Jester.

"There's less attitude, less fights, less drunks. It's always been a great place for the kids."

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