After complaint, Salt Lake City closes Avenues Bistro patio

Zoning • Owner plans to seek a variance in time for al fresco dining in the springtime.
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Kathie Chadbourne, owner of Avenues Bistro on Third, would like to serve her customers a few more meals on the patio while daytime temperatures in northern Utah hover near 70 degrees.

That can't happen, though, as Chadbourne was forced to close the outdoor seating area in mid-October because it violates Salt Lake City zoning laws.

Chadbourne launched Avenues Bistro, 564 E. Third Ave., in February 2011 and opened the adjacent patio four months later on Mother's Day.

The area seats about 32 people, she said, doubling her restaurant capacity and helping her business operate in the black.

With all the proper city permits and a full-service liquor license from the state, she was surprised last month to get a letter saying she had to shut the patio down.

"Nobody came in and complained," said Chadbourne, whose vintage restaurant serves soups, salads, soups, sandwiches, small plates and entrees using local and fresh ingredients. She has a large garden area that supplies produce and chickens that provide eggs. There's also a speakeasy-style lounge in the basement.

While neighbors didn't complain directly to Chadbourne, they did go to the city with concerns, said Art Raymond, a spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker.

After the complaint, the city sent enforcement officers to the business who determined "the location was not zoned for outdoor seating," Raymond said.

The closure has angered customers.

"The very thing officials say the city should be — more livable, walkable and homegrown — it now wants to take away," Paul Maurer wrote in a "letter to the editor" published recently in The Salt Lake Tribune. "I hope the city leaders will open their hearts and minds a bit and reconsider this decision."

Ann Leo Wigam called the restaurant her "home away from home," on Chadbourne's Facebook page. "Kathie and her employees are doing great work. It would be a shame for that to all be taken away."

Chadbourne said she plans to apply for a zoning variance with hopes of receiving approval before spring when diners will once again want to eat al fresco.

"I will try to get a variance and hope it doesn't take six or eight months," she said.

But as the sun shines down on Salt Lake City this week, Chadbourne said she feels she has already been hurt by the situation.

"We've missed at least 15 days on our patio," she said. "Many people walk away when they see it's closed."