WATERVILLE — The City Council on July 3 will consider a request by two restaurant owners to close down a small part of a street in The Concourse later this summer for outdoor dining, an issue that stirred controversy at Tuesday’s council meeting, with Mayor Nick Isgro gaveling down City Manager Michael Roy as he was speaking.

Kevin Joseph, owner of You Know Whose Pub, and Jennifer Bergeron, owner of Itali-ah, asked that they be able to close the part of the street near their businesses during dining hours so they can offer outdoor dining on a trial basis this year, from Aug. 1 to the end of September.

The spot is near a small park on The Concourse where they hope to have entertainment such as small concerts, they said, adding that they spoke with people from neighboring businesses and they had no objection to the idea.

But Allan Rancourt, president of KFS bank, which has entrances on both Main Street and The Concourse, objected to the idea. He was accompanied by bank attorney William Dubord, who said the road closure could affect traffic in and out of The Concourse.

“KFS feels it would definitely adversely affect their business,” Dubord said.

Joseph and Bergeron said they wanted the outdoor dining permit to do something nice on The Concourse side of downtown to get people outside and engaged. Joseph said they had spoken to both fire and police officials, who confirmed there would be no safety problems. The road would be re-opened at 10 p.m. when his business stops serving food, he said. Itali-ah stops serving at 9 p.m., according to Bergeron. Itali-ah also has an entrance on Main Street, but the pub does not.

Bergeron said they are striving toward developing an elegant-looking dining area that is classy.

“That back side of Main Street — it feels forgotten, like nobody really pays attention to those back entrances to make it welcoming and friendly,” she said.

Joseph said he thinks having outdoor dining there will help energize that area of downtown. Roy said he had a number of meetings with Joseph and Bergeron about the request, and it is the city’s job to help get people with such proposals to this stage.

“Our job is not to advocate or deny, but to get it to this point,” he said.

Isgro asked if the city’s parking study committee had met to discuss it. He also asked if the outdoor dining issue was part of a bigger plan and said he was concerned about “piecemealing” when making such decisions.

“Was this thought through?” he asked.

Roy said it was not part of a bigger plan. He said the discussion started initially with the idea of having the outdoor dining in the pocket park on The Concourse, and in the course of discussion, other options were considered, such as having it on the street.

Later, Isgro said he was concerned “the council just had this thrown at them,” and if the request is considered piecemeal, other requests will come forward and they won’t be handled well.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, D-Ward 5, said he thinks outdoor dining is a fantastic idea, but that he would err on the side of caution and not support piecemeal changes. It should undergo proper planning, he said. Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, also said the request might be something the council needs a little more time to think about.

“I’d like to put if off until July,” he said.

Requests to send the matter to the Planning Board or the parking committee prompted Roy to say it is really not a Planning Board or parking committee matter and that the dining would affect only two parking spaces. Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, suggested forming a committee to review the request, with Mayhew saying he’d like to be on the panel.

John Fortier, owner of State Farm Insurance on Silver Street, said that as parking committee chairman, he emailed the city to ask to start up committee meetings, but to no avail. That committee, which met during discussions of downtown revitalization, had decided to stop holding meetings until after developments were completed, such as the Colby College mixed-use residential complex.

Rancourt, the bank president, said he had assumed that allowing the street on The Concourse to be closed for outdoor dining would be a “free giveaway to those people making money.”

“If these people are not going to have a lease, you’re asking for the taxpayers of Waterville to subsidize that,” he said. “That is wrong.”

Bergeron said she and Joseph were never told there wasn’t going to be a lease.

“There was never a free giveaway that I knew of,” she said.

If, as Rancourt suggested, closing the street would cause an inconvenience for traffic, Bergeron said, the same could be said of the large Colby building under construction on The Concourse. She said she adjusted her travel by taking a different route to exit The Concourse to avoid the Colby project. She said she thinks that for the two months outdoor dining would take place, people would figure it out, and if it has a huge effect, next year the council could reject the request.

“It’s one of those things where I hope you guys see the benefit,” she said.

Isgro said he was disappointed no plan had come before the council and that it should have come with a traffic analysis.

Both Joseph and Bergeron said they would need an answer soon, as they need time to develop outdoor dining the right way.

Roy, meanwhile, said the council has issued four existing outdoor dining permits and asked, “Do you charge for those?” With that, Isgro said those are part of a “larger plan.”

Roy began to speak, but Isgro shut him off and slammed the gavel on the table.

“Excuse me. I’m talking,” Isgro said. “Michael, I’m talking. Please don’t talk over me, and I’ll give you your chance.”

Roy and City Clerk Patti Dubois said there are other outdoor dining venues besides those on Silver Street, including the Proper Pig, Selah Tea and Jorgensen’s.

“So are we going to charge for all of them?” Roy asked.

O’Donnell said the city at least should have some kind of plan so dining venues are not decided piecemeal.

Roy said the city could develop a plan but questioned what goal such a plan wants to achieve.

“I’m not blaming you,” O’Donnell replied. “I’m not pounding my gavel.”

Meanwhile, Rancourt said he thinks restaurants should put up a bond to pay for vandalism and other damage done by late-night revelers.

The council voted 7-0 to table the matter until July 3.

Joseph said Wednesday that he wants to request that the matter be taken up before that date. He said he tried to discuss the dining issue with Rancourt when he and Bergeron were discussing it, but Rancourt did not respond. Joseph said he called him twice Friday, as well as on Monday and Tuesday, and Rancourt left him a message that he did not want to discuss it until the council meeting Tuesday.

Consideration of an outdoor dining permit for 18 Below, a restaurant on Silver Street, also was postponed until July 3.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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