Ogden to OK live music at social halls on case-by-case basis
Paris Cafe • Owner Earnie McKown still must go through lengthy process to save his business.
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Ogden • The city council approved a new social hall definition Tuesday that opens the door for live musicians to perform at select sites throughout the city, including an old strip mall on Harrison Boulevard where businessman Earnie McKown has struggled to keep the Paris Cafe afloat.

With live performers, the alcohol-free hangout is vibrant and financially viable, McKown said, but without the pull of live entertainment, revenue fails to cover expenses.

The 5-1 vote — Council member Doug Stephens voted against the ordinance because of reservations about citywide impact, and Council member Amy Wicks was absent for the discussion and vote — permits social halls as a conditional use in commercial zones that border residential areas, leaving the door open for city officials to retain control of such placement on a case-by-case basis.

City Planner Rick Grover said that business size, hours of operation and alcohol use would be factors that would be considered as such requests crop up throughout the city.

Enforcement of existing statutes would come through police awareness, and Facebook and other social media could be used to track the scheduling of live events, Grover told the Council. The new ordinance dictates that such performances be offered only two days per week, he added.

"Trolling social media to try to spot parties for code enforcement just seems a little far, doesn't it?" said Salt Lake City resident Patrick Powers as he spoke in support of McKown's effort. "Why not wait until someone actually complains about one of these businesses to try address the problem?"

Until Tuesday, the city had no clear definition for social hall establishments, allowing live music mainly in bars and the downtown business district. But last fall, McKown abandoned that high-rent area in hopes of reviving a large vacant building at 3155 Harrison Blvd. near Ogden High School and Mount Ogden Middle School.

The city's Planning Commission and City Council ruled against McKown's plan last fall under the old ordinance, causing McKown to pursue the expanded definition.

McKown must now reapply with the city's planning department and could come before the Planning Commission again on May 1.

McKown said he's already paid for two business licenses at $180 each, another $220 fee to revisit the social hall ordinance, and will now be required to pay another $140 application fee.

"Treat me right, guys," he said with a frustrated grin. In the meantime, McKown said he plans to work odd jobs until he hopefully receives the required approvals from the city.

Ron Atencio, who owns and operates Mojos in downtown Ogden, is a direct competitor and also serves on Ogden's planning board. Atencio voted against McKown's initial request, then recused himself from the second discussion and vote that dealt with broadening the social hall definition.

cmckitrick@sltrib.com

Twitter: @catmck