Berry: Voice support

Doug Berry said it's his turn. The owner of Berry's Restaurant wants his side heard in a request to serve alcohol in Bresson Park. A vote by city council is expected in the coming weeks. Berry's already leases Bresson Park to serve food. The restaurant now would like to serve alcohol with the meals in the park.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

 

Doug Berry said it's his turn.

The owner of Berry's Restaurant wants his side heard in a request to serve alcohol in Bresson Park. A vote by city council is expected in the coming weeks. Berry's already leases Bresson Park to serve food. The restaurant now would like to serve alcohol with the meals in the park.

"Over and over again the council people are making it known how many negative comments they are getting about liquor in a public park," Berry said Wednesday afternoon. "I think it is time for people to call in and voice their opinion. Call the mayor, call the city, call the safety-service director, call their councilmen. We had people sign a book and it was an overwhelming 8-1 in favor of liquor in the park. This is a restaurant that needs the business every flipping day. If it wasn't important, I would let it die. It's not like I need more stuff to do ...This is important to us."

Berry cited a restaurant owners' survey that said "if a meal is good, they (the customers) are going to tell anywhere between one and three people. If it is bad, it's anywhere from 15 to 25. If it's bad, they will speak up. If they like it, they won't say anything.

"I don't want the naysayers to get this turned down. There are people who want it. It's time people say, hey, either I want it or I don't."

Berry's opened in 1946. The Dinky, a restaurant/pub connected to the restaurant, opened Dec. 26, 2004. The Dinky is adjacent to Bresson Park.

Berry said the restaurant business isn't easy.

"I talk to food people every day," he said. "Just look at the Homestead, Spreader's, McClain's, Margarita Bay (in Sandusky), Showboat, Nate's in Port Clinton (all closed) ... the idea is restaurants are a tough business. The Angry Trout is up for sale. It is tough. Not that Berry's is going to go out of business ... we have 70 employees ... we have to make sure our business does well and this will help our business." Berry owned the Homestead restaurant when it closed.

Norwalk City Council members discussed Berry's request Tuesday, which is before council in the form of two pieces of legislation introduced by council member Bob Carleton. One would expand the city's lease agreement with Berry's, which allows the restaurant to serve food in Bresson Park during the summer months, to include alcohol.

The more problematic legislation would change the city ordinance that prohibits alcohol in public parks.

Law Director Stuart O'Hara said, as currently constructed, the legislation would cross a line and open the city up to challenges from other businesses or organizations. For example, if a service organization like the Jaycees or Lions' Club were to rent a city space, such as the Clubhouse at the reservoir, they could request the city allow them to serve alcohol as part of a fundraiser.

"You run into the problem of selectivity," he said. "It's opened a door I don't think you intended to open."

O'Hara will study whether the legislation can be completely specific to Berry's, but said it was likely the city would still be open to legal challenges on the basis of discrimination. O'Hara will do the research and present his findings at the June 26 council meeting. Meaning, at the earliest, council could vote on the proposal at its July 10 meeting. Even if approved, it would take 30 days before the legislation went into effect.

"From a practical standpoint, it's not going to happen for Mr. Berry this summer anyway," said council member Tom Stoll. "We probably need to look at it some more. Find a better way of doing it."

Stoll suggested the city might be able to alter Bresson Park's designation as a public park and make another arrangements with Berry's.

Mayor Sue Lesch said she opposes the proposal, not based on Berry's, but on her ethical training. If it was just about helping Berry's she would support it, but the proposal has wide repercussions.

Council member Dwight Tkach countered that the city always helps business through grants and tax abatements. Lesch responded that those dollars always come with a requirement to create a certain amount of jobs, which serves the public good.

"When you make these decisions to help business, there has to be a public purpose," she said. "I, personally, can't see it here. I can't see the public purpose, and it can't be just to help a business."

Even rewritten to eliminate the potential legal problems, several council members said they have heard from many constituents and they are overwhelmingly and adamantly opposed to allowing alcohol in public parks.

"I'm sure the constituents I talked with aren't opposed to it on any technicality, they are full blown opposed," said council member Chris Mushett. "I can't see the public view point changing no matter how we craft an ordinance."

Tkach said the city only focuses on the negatives and what ifs when businesses request help. He added other cities, such as Sandusky, are able to do such things and it has not had negative effects.

"Each of us is elected to represent our own personal beliefs, and the beliefs of those who elected us," responded council president Steve Euton. "If Norwalk chooses to be different than cities like Sandusky or Huron that choose to allow this, that's this community's privilege."

The city's park board voted against the proposal three-to-one earlier in the day.

Police Chief Kevin Cashen also spoke against the idea, saying public drinking is already a problem in the city. He also said that, with a push from the city, county and schools to fight drug and alcohol use, especially among children, this would send a mixed message.

"We are working with number of agencies to provide more prevention for youth ... but it's OK for our adults to go out in public park and drink and teenagers can ride their bike down the street and see it," he said.

Lesch added Ann Bresson, a member of the family for which the park is named, opposes the proposal.

Council member Shane Penrose said Bresson and Cashen's views "spoke volumes."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reflector Staff Writer Matt Hutton contributed to this story.

Comments

I_Say_No (Anonymous)

I disagree....Berry's is privately owned and should not be granted taxpayer/public space to serve alcohol.....too much liability for the taxpayer/city while Berry reaps the monetary benefit. Also, if Berry's is granted "special privleges" then you can be sure other private businesses will want the same.

American 1st (A...

There are still a lot of people that are deathly afraid that someone, somewhere might have a good time. Never mind the lawyers, someone should take responsibility and make this happen for the people of Norwalk. How about selling part of the park to Berry's?

Thinkinoutloud ...

How about this for a solution. Berry's take some of their money, purchase some property and build a Berry's II and have outside dining and drinks on their own property. Sounds like that would solve the problem.

Joe F (Anonymous)

Modern major American cities like Chicago have had sidewalk dining with alcohol for years with no repercussions. Norwalk is fortunate to have a forward thinking downtown business like Berry's.

localtaxpayer (...

Hey thinkinoutloud, I agree with you.
Casa Fiesta is for sale. Berry's could buy that place and catch the traffic on the northside of town. It already has outside dining and no tax dollars would be used. And let the citizens of Norwalk have Bresson Park back.

anonymous (Anon...

Hey Norwalk I want the infield on the north diamond at Baines Park. I been thinking that would be a nice place to open a bar. Cant wait till you start giving some of this public land away to private businessmen to make a profit, it's about time.

norwalktaxpayer...

Like I said before, it's a bad idea. If Berry's owned the property, that would be different. Berry's doesn't. It's owned by the city of Norwalk and its citizens.
I'm still not comfortable with the city leasing Berry's the property for outdoor dining.
If Doug Berry wants this so badly, perhaps he should ask the city if the property is for sale, and if so, begin negotiations. I can't imagine that no outdoor alcohol sales is going to hurt the business.
Like Doug Berry said, call City Hall or your Council representative, and let your feelings be known. It seems the majority doesn't want this, yet Mr. Berry doesn't realize this.
I enjoy dining at Berry's, and will continue to do so. This isn't personal. It's myself (and apparently many, many others) speaking out against an idea that benefits just a few people.

whoz it (Anonymous)

Geez! Give the guy a break and let him help expand his business. It's not like downtown Norwalk has that much else to bring in people and the money they spend. Berry's is one of the few establishments that hasn't just given up and moved someplace where it would be easier to make a buck.
Find a way to make this happen.
It would be great!

resident (Anonymous)

The city cannot give any one business in Norwalk that kind of monopoly. The city law says that no alcohol can be consumed in a city park, period. Why does 1 lone business get special treatment to break the law?
My next question is, has Berry's or the city consulted with the state liquor board to see if this is legal? I've never been to any kind of bar/cafe or even a festival that allowed beer to be consumed outside of a fenced in area. Just go to any event like St. Paul's, St. Joseph's or even the Dam festival that is coming up shortly and see where people stand to drink a beer. I can't think of one outdoor eatery in the area with a liquor permit that doesn't have a fence around their outdoor patio and that's on their own private property!

Call for a Midd...

While I am in sypathy with Mr. Berry's desire to add to hisability to offer wine or beer with dinner to increase his revenue and stay a viable local business, to use a public park for the purpose does open up unfortunate possibilities in several arenas. The very fact that this is a hot button topic with people coming from what appear to be diametrically opposed viewpoints indicates that finding another solution is essential.

Public parks are supposed to be places of family recreation, and as responsible adults, this means that we must sometimes put aside our personal preferences in order to safeguard what our children are exposed to and when. . This is not saying that everyone who takea drink is a problem. Far from it. Rather, it is the acknowledgement of what is appropriate behavior for the place you are in at a given time. Public parks are places that are just that -- public. The fact that the parks, in essence, belong to everyone, young or old, changes the sort of behavior that is appropriate for that space.

Our family moved to Norwalk from a heavily populated major metropolitan area, and even there alcholoic consumption was prohibted in public parks. If, for instance, you were at a softball doubleheader and popped open a beer, you would be asked to leave the park and, if it escalated, you might even be prohibted from returning for the rest of the season!

It only takes a quick read through the police blotter to demonstrate the validity of Police Chief Cashen's point. However, a drink with dinner is not in the same class as starting a brawl or engaging in behavior that is potentially harmful to yourself and others.

The main issue is not a fear that people will drink to excess with their meal. Rather it is the issue of fairness and what can happen when special privilege is granted to one person, business, or group above another. Why would something be deemed okay for Berry's Restaurant but not for others? If one extablishment is granted special privileges while other businesess or groups are denied the same request, there is indeed an open door to litigation that would divert public resources, time, and effort, i.e. taxpayer dollats, into fighting legal battles that never needed to happen.

Perhaps it would be prudent for everyone to take a deep breath, step back, and look at the other possibilites for handling this issue. If what decisions have been propounded to date are unacceptable to both sides because they are at opposite ends of the spectrum, let's try again. Whenever you are "stuck" in a decision, the best way to open up the flow of new ideas is to declare anything that has not worked to be out of contention as an option. The ideas following this may be good, bad, or indifferent, but if you can get the flow going again, there is a much better chance that a new thought will emerge that could answer both sides of this issue in a fair and profitable manner for all concerned.

Re: Middlegroun...

While your comment was full of lots of big words and a few mispelled ones I might add, I think I understand what you were saying. I just think I can say it better and more to the point. NO DRINKING IN OUR PUBLIC PARKS. FIND ANOTHER WAY TO MAKE YOUR MONEY.

Another tax pay...

This issue should have been a dead issue a year ago. This amazes me how much time this is taking from the council meetings and the mayor. I am sure we have more important issues to talk about in this town. Bottom line is Berrys want to expand their business on city property. I realize they have been around for years but they should not get any privileges over any other business in this town. Business is business. You want expand then you pay for it. If I recall a few years ago we had a Strawberry Festival that benefited the whole town. If I also recall Berrys screamed the loudest about people from the festival were using their restrooms as public restrooms. This festival benefited adults, kids and out of town people. Now isn't that ironic now their wanting people downtown. Now they want our city fathers to let them use public property? Yet they screamed about the public using their restrooms from the festival. Seems like you should have maybe not yelled so loud about the festival being downtown and maybe the public who all attended the festival back then would looked upon this issue a little different now. Maybe you should count your blessings that you already have advantage over a lot of businesses in this town you have a large parking lot out back which is used for your customer parking which is kept up by the city now. Do you have any ideal how much money that saves you in parking lot repairs? The park is the cities property not anyone business. I say a big no and I urge any voter who is against this to vote against that council person on the next election who votes for this because they are opening a can of worms here legally.

Attention all P...

Alcohol is legal, prohibition is over. I can understand that you do not want drunken idiots around your children, and that you want your children in the park. Designate an area for alcohol consumption, the city can charge an entrance fee and pay an officer to monitor the activity. If you think that a child will be corrupted or confused by seeing someone having a drink then you are probably not honest with your children about what alchol is and what its effects are. Lighten up; better yet have a drink.

a128 (Anonymous)

You want the city to designate an area, charge a cover fee and then pay a police officer monitor this area so that Berry's can serve wine or beer? Are you serious? How long would it be before the first lawsuit appears, 10-15 minutes after opening? As far as your arguement that alcohol is legal and prohibition is over, can I drink a beer walking down the street? Smoking is legal but can you smoke in a public building? Guns are legal to own but can you walk around town carrying a loaded gun in your hand? We have laws and the city has no right to give special power or priviledge to bend or break the law. The absolute worst would be letting someone break/bend the law for their own personal profit!

forward thinkin...

This is not Chicago. Ohio laws and Norwalk laws prohibit outdoor alcohol sales on public property unless surrounded by a fence. Fencing a public park for private sales is not forward thinking or legal.
Pavilion 4 at the reservoir could be a strip club with forward thinking.
No means no.

norwalkresident...

Councilman Bob Carleton introduced this legislation. What was he thinking? He should know better. This is city-owned property, and this legislation would benefit one business---Berry's. If you think I'm wrong, tell me which other businesses will benefit, and how?
Our elected officials shouldn't be wasting their time dicussing this.

Joe F (Anonymous)

One would think that with the current unaccceptably high Norwalk unemployment rate that each and every local elected and non-elected government official would be working diligently to take steps to help downtown businesses like Berry's rather than working to impede the expansion plans of such a valuable employer.

I (Anonymous)

Valuable Employer? Are you kidding? Berry's isn't Norwalk Furniture....they don't pay diddly to their help...they have and continue to be over-rated....when was the last time a Berry said thank you for your business? I and many members of my family have not patronized Berry's in years as the customer service was so poor, try getting a Berry to say thank you and smile at you as you leave the restaurant...sorry, but city/tax paying property is not Berry property...The Berry's are no better than anyone else and should receive special treatment

are you kidding...

i think that the city of norwalk has already done alot for the Berry family in support of their business, and i feel thet they don't appreciate the overall advantages that they already have over the other restaurants in town .
what other restaurant has a city owned and city maintained parking lot, behind their establishment?? ? parking is a big problem in this town , and it would be ideal for any business to have the parking set up that Berry's has,
Berry's is the only restaurant that is allowed to sell their goods in a public park , which again, is maintained by the city of norwalk , with little or no cost to Berry's.
Doug Berry states that they have 70 employees , but what are the wages of those employees?? i am under the impression that the waiters , and waitress's earn below the minimum wage, and so the bulk of the employees income is earned from tips and gratuities from the patrons ,and so it is another example of the low cash output/ high income return principle, that all restaurants take part in , but it is not comparable to other employees at other places where the employee is counting on their employer to pay their salaries.
what is next ?? if this goes over very well for the Berry's and their business increases accordingly , and they find that they need more parking spaces , what will the city do next ? give them the entire parking area behind them so no one but Berry's patrons will be legally allowed to park there ??
I think , enough is enough , and i think that Berry's is given special favors already and for them to expect more special treatment , is enough ..
yes, Doug, i hope that the people will speak out on this issue , like you are asking them to do , but i hope that they will turn your request down , and keep drinking out of the city parks ..

Enough All Read...

If the Berry family wants to serve alcohol in an outdoor setting, then they can clean the parks up around the Homestead and set up shop there. Let Milan take care of them. Norwalk has bent over backwards to please these people, and they keep wanting more. I say do not give them more. They are the most unappreciative family in town. I agree that it is very difficult to get a thank you out of them. My family was in town recently and had a large crowd to feed and went to Berry's. The service was horrendous, problem with the food, and after spending a large fortune, we were not even thanked for coming in. Does anyone know what customer service is anymore? Hello, it is keeping your customers happy. Happy customers come back and tell their friends what a great establishment you have. Unhappy customers tell their friends, and write in blogs to let the whole community know how lousy the service/food was.

no way (Anonymous)

I cant believe he's allowed to use the park for dining, unbelieveable. The city opened up a can or worms on this. Would you do the same for the Star Diner (who arguably has better food) or Casa Fiesta (I know the answer for that one)

Beth (Anonymous)

Whether or not people agree about the public park idea, which I don't, there are issues people must not have considered. Anyone who has a police scanner can tell you what a problem drinking is uptown. On nights and weekends, the police are so busy with all the drunks and barfights, and other problems from drinking that occur, they don't have much time to do other things. Since there are not too many houses near Berry's, how are people going to get there? Most people will drive, and after they had a few drinks, they will have to drive home. They will not be completely sober, and many will probably be drunk. I think we have plenty of drunk drivers without adding more. So either way, for my reason and the public park one, I really think it's a bad idea.

Joe F (Anonymous)

Could it be that reading comprehension has become a lost art in Norwalk? The very vocal anti-business types should read carefully what Mr. Berry is saying. If Mr. Berry ever decides someday to close up shop and in turn create yet another vacant store front on Main St., the naysayers will be asking, "What happened?"

Joe F (Anonymous)

Being in business today especially in the the restaurant business in the U.S. is a very risky affair. Entrepreneurs like Mr. Berry should be encouraged to grow and expand rather than stifled. I would offer that those who object loudest to Mr. Berry's proposal are individuals who have always been employees, not employers.

smalltowner (An...

Having moved to Huron County almost 30 years ago I have to admit that I have only eaten at Berry's twice. I was not impressed the first time and was totally against going the second time , not only was the food not worth the price we paid the service was anything but pleasant.I don't see why everyone thinks this is such a great place.
As far as the new issue of alcohol sales in the park I don't think they should even be selling food in a public park. But then my name isn't Berry.

norwalkresident...

Joe F.

Have you seen the number of tables Berry's places out at Bresson Park? It's a handful.
Do you really think 3-4 months of outdoor alcohol sales would really have a financial impact on the restaurant's bottom line?
If the answer is yes, that means there's a lot of drinking going on outside.
The answer is most likely no.

For many residents, this is a matter of principal...It's about a private business using taxpayer-owned property for profit.
I've suggested it before, and so have others...Why doesn't Mr. Berry ask the city if the land is for sale, and if so, begin negotiations?
I'd really like to know how much he's already paying for the summer lease.

Joe F (Anonymous)

This entire argument would appear to be indicative of a long festering anti-business mentality. The bottom line is this: Does Norwalk want to be known as a municipality that is open for business? Or instead, will it degenerate into a high tax sleepy bedroom community with an ever expanding public park system, more empty downtown store fronts and other bankrupt enterprises, populated by an ever aging constituency of government and private pensioners? Again, I would argue that those who are the loudest in their grousing against Mr. Berry's expansion plans have never owned a business and have never had to "make payroll." Question - What previously occupied the land whereon Bresson Park lies? More parks or more homegrown businesses? It's your choice Norwalk.

FL Tourist (Ano...

As a tourist, I cannot speak to the issue of allowing alcohol in a city park, I don't live in Norwalk anymore (I used to). However, after reading several postings regarding the service at Berry's I felt I had to wade in. As a tourist I spent 3 days in Norwalk where I spent my hard earned money on local motels and eateries. After driving on the road for several days, I did not want to eat any more "road food". I remembered Berry's from when my Dad used to take me there. My Family and I ate lunch there, the food was great, the service was good, and we did get a "thank you" on the way out. Berry's has been a part of Norwalk for some time, it would be a shame for them to close up. Will serving alcohol in in the park break them? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless I think an local business should be supported. Where I live in Florida, you can't even find a place like Berry's, it is all chain restaurants, and yes the service can be bad in those too. Just my thoughts.

American 1st (A...

Not that I'm a Berry's fan, but what exactly are all these wonderful things that the City of Norwalk has done for them? Alcohol is not the problem with the people causing trouble downtown while drinking. These people would be causing problems even without alcohol and they do not frequent the Dinky.

norwalkresident...

I have a hard time believing an "anti-business" arguement.
Why would anyone want a business like Berry's to not succeed? That's ridiculous.
If Berry's owned the property, and had it properly secured, I think a lot of people would back off from this discussion.
As I pointed out in a previous post, I can't believe Berry's would make a great deal of money off Bresson Park alcohol sales, given the limited space.
Conversely, I seriously doubt Berry's is going to close down, if this measure is rejected. (By the way, no one, including Doug Berry has said Berry's is in danger of closing.)
The logical solution seems to be a sale of the property, if both sides are interested. That seems like a win-win situation.

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