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.


Joe F (Anonymous)

Contrary to the opinion of those who it would appear have never owned a business, nor do they even appear to have a reasonable knowledge of finance or economics - corporations unfortunately do not have the luxury of an endless supply of capital. Arguments such as the purchase of additional property or changing locations merely helps to illustrate a profound lack in comprehension regarding the daily difficulties in the operation of a successful business establishment. And yes generally, alcohol is a high mark-up item. Most successful restaurants have a profit margin of 10% of total sales - it's a rough and sometimes brutish business. To even think that the majority of restauranteurs are rich is a belief in a profound fallacy. The vast majority of restauranteurs tend to have two happy days in their food service careers - the day they open shop and the day they (if they're fortunate) sell the business.

I_Say_No (Anonymous)

Give me a break on the "business owner" hardships....plain and simple: For years the Berry's have done quite well with the residents and government of this city and their attitude reflects that...they may have expected the city to gladly approve giving public space for their liquor sales and apparently you feel the same....well I have news for you, most of the taxpayers in Norwalk are not "business owners" but hardworking factory and blue collar workers....Berry's request to serve alcohol on public property for HIS BUSINESS is out of line and presumptuous....and by the way, the council persons that are in favor of giving this special benefit may find out they made a mistake come election time.

American 1st (A...

The council persons that are supporting this are probably thinking that there are Norwalkians who would enjoy sitting in the open air enjoying a glass of wine or a pint of brew while listening to music. Amazing how this upsets some people!

business owner ...

I'm a business owner in this town and have been for 18 years. I rent (which is not cheap) extra space in town to store overflow materials and stock used in the day to day production. So if the city lets Berry's continue to use the park to sell food and in the future possibly sell alcohol, I will personally go to city hall and demand they let me use one of the parks around town to store my inventory for whatever they charge Berry to use the park uptown. That's only fair!!! Why is Berry's financial bottom line any more important than my company's? If the city is handing out "sweet deals" and favors to one comapny, I want them to hand one to me too.

American 1st (A...

And storing overflow materials and stock in a city park would benefit the people of Norwalk how? I see this issue as adding something for people to enjoy downtown as opposed to aiding or showing favoritism to a business.


American 1st: That may be the problem. Apparently, you're not seeing both sides of the arguement here. It would show favoritism. Actually, there's already favoritism, since the city's already leasing the space to Berry's. For the sake of arguement, what if another downtown business wanted to lease the same space next summer? Then what?

smalltowner (An...

This is all very simple. It is a PUBLIC Park. The public has spoken loud and clear several times but the city is not listening. NO, NO, NO, and NO again. Leave it as a public park . No alcohol and preferable no food served!

business owner ...

American 1st:
I'll tell you how it could benefit the city. If I was able to store goods at a place I could get very cheap and then have absolutely no maintenance (i.e. having the taxpayers not only build it but in every other way maintain it) for me, I could sell my product at a cheaper price. Selling more product would mean I then make more money by which the city gets a bigger and bigger share of it through income tax. With more income tax, the city can then fund more projects like fixing roads, updating the sewer treatment plant and things like that. Not to mention the fact that it could also mean more jobs here in town. So right there is how letting me use public land for private use would benefit all of the people of Norwalk just like the Berry's and I wouldn't have to sell alcohol to do it.

are you kidding...

wasn't one of the reason's that the strawberry festival was done away with , was because of the beer tent, and all of the uncontrolled drinking ?? now we want to have drinking in the public parks??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Obrenobitch (An...

nope the strawberry fest was taken away because of the horrible element that it attracted along with the big mess left behind for me.

Annie (Anonymous)

We are a country at war.

Get your priorities straight, people.

Joe F (Anonymous)

Rather than Norwalk allowing itself to merely being a "pass-through" for tourists on their way to the lake, perhaps the local government naysayers on this issue can work to properly market the area in order to get some of them to stop for a time and spend some of their money. Sidewalk cafes (with alcohol) like Mr. Berry's proposal would be a good beginning.

smalltowner (An...

hey Annie, you are so right! Why is this story worth 42 comments when the article about the Hometown Heros gets only 2 comments, come on people, get your priorities straight! 4th of July is just around the corner.


It's all a moot point. Legislation allowing alcohol sales died at last night's meeting. I'm sure the paper will have more details later today.

American 1st (A...

Annie, our debate here has absolutely no impact on the war. Our opinions on local issues may actually get some attention from our city government.

Annie (Anonymous)

American 1st, I am sorry that you do not understand what is meant by "we are a country at war...get your priorities straight". To expound, I mean that we are priviledged to be able to have this kind of disagreement, and we need to be humble and remember that. I'm just amazed at how much people forget how lucky they truly are.

Joe F (Anonymous)

In Chapter 10, Point 9, of The Norwalk Ohio Comprehensive Plan regarding Downtown it reads: "Focus on developing businesses and services that capture local and external revenues, such as full-service restaurants, with hours, products, and services that meet the needs of the local market." Did the government naysayers meet the needs of the local marketplace or did they simply meet their political needs? The words ring hollow with regard to Mr. Berry's expansion plans.

"Stan the Man" ...

I never read in the police blotter about the cops being called to Berry's or the Dinky. The Dinky has repsonsible people working for them and should be allowed to serve alcohol in the park!! I do not think this would cause any problems in the park, besides the people who frequent Charlie's and Rupp's will not be going to the Dinky to have a drink in the park. Let them serve alcohol and move on. I am sure council and the mayor have far better things to work on.

Lynn (Anonymous)

Have any of you who have ever visited a "bigger" city and had the pleasure of sitting at an outdoor cafe(for cities nearby think of the Flats in Cleveland, various resturants all over Columbus, or further away places such as New York City, San Diego, Chicago, or any city in Europe)? Can you remember how fun and enjoyable it was to sit outdoors with friends and family relax, enjoy a good meal, and do something different from your daily routine? Why should not Norwalk - "One of the best small cities in Ohio" - live up to its motto and offer something which other cities do not offer? Open your minds to the opportunities this could create - make Norwalk more marketable, a bit more cosmopolitan and simply a more interesting and comfortable place to enjoy yourselves!

Joe F (Anonymous)

Lynn, thank you for bringing up the motto - "One of the Best Small Cities in Ohio." "One of the Best???" This tag line is just plain b-a-d. It smacks of belittlement and helps to illustrate Norwalk as an also-ran community. A proud community needs a proud motto. This one just doesn't get it! Time for a contest?

maybe (Anonymous)

LYnn, those cities you talk about with the little cafe's where on private property, not in a city park.

smalltowner (An...

its a dead issue, let it go! Don't you people have anything more important to take up your time than beating a DEAD issue.

whatever (Anonymous)

berry's has always been known for the elderly generation that eats there. i wouldn't go to the dinky or whatever it is called for this simple reason: no one my age will be there!!!! i am a social drinker only and do not wnat to drink with 10 people that are old enough to be my grandparents!!!!! smalltowner is right this is a dead issue if the yeasayers were going to do anything about it they would have done so already and we have not heard anything about that so forget drinking on city property mr. berry!!

Joe F (Anonymous)

So other than the few philosophical negatives voiced on this supposedly dead issue, what would the naysayers such as those who are bigoted against seniors propose that would help to re-vitalize uptown? The Milan Ave. corridor is almost self-perpetuating regarding growth and commercialization, but what about the Potemkin Village-like uptown?

Get to the poin...

Comment deleted for violating terms of service.

What? (Anonymous)

To no way-I think Berrys food is nothing to speak of myself!But come on--Star diner,please!My god most people I know that used to eat there,including myself-after eating there would get diareaha so bad that your pacticaly homebound most of the day!Or have to be close to a potty at work!It's mostly grease laden crap!I heard she orders the cheapest ingreidents,pay attention when they have a grill order,&look to see what is being applied to their grilltop!Ask them if you could see the orginal label with the orginal container it came in when the order was placed!!!You will be stunned-if you care about your health at all!!And I'm not a healthnut so to speak!And furthermore,I thought I remember an article once several years back that one of berrys violations he had gotten, had been an ashtray with cig.butts in it over his stove!!I asked a couple of employees about that-they said oh yeah! that's true!I do not want to go to a restaurant that the cook &possibly the waitress is smoking in the kitchen& handling food!That is disgusting!Maybe he should be more concerned with getting more exterminator visits in his restaurant instead of alcohol&food in the park!A public park for the taxpayers& their children!If this passes,my family will NOT be doing any kind of business in this main street area!No antiquing,no music store anymore,I will even switch to an out of main street location for a new insurance carrier,no coffees,no flowers!I will start buying flowers at wallmart or online out of area service!

Are you kidding...

Hey-this is a good laugh!Berry says to call your mayor& so on!How many of you have ever tried to call & personaly get to talk to your mayor!I have not,& I have been told by others too!That they have called to speak to their elected mayors,& they they in turn have never gotten to speak to their mayors!They leave a message& they do not call them back!One lady I had been told about quite some time ago is one of the Norwalk Mayors neighbors,she called to speak to the mayor because a waitress had gotten fired from the star diner& the owner sherle,had somehow gotten 4 police cruisers to her restaurant,to escort this poor waitress out of the restauraunt!Now I must tell the truth here-I know who the waitress is& this makes my blood boil!!!This star diner owner sheryl was in the wrong totally!I know the real reason why she fired this poor woman,& I'm sure this woman could have sued the living daylights out of her!But she was so embarrassed, she was treated like a criminal!Which she is not!Well,the mayors neighbor wanted to ask her why there had been 4 police cruisers dispatched to this situation?Talk about taxpayers waste!! this is pathetic!!Of norwalks police dept.& the mayor for letting this kind of thing happen!!Yeah! call your mayor alright!! What a joke !This incident got swept under the covers too!I'm sick & tired of local business owners getting special treatment around here by local officials!I can tell you personally several people I know that were fired or as their local uptown owners callit"let go"until they find another job!And the local owners treat these employees like crap!But the local city officals have their pictures in the paper & everything when there is a grand opening or something!This is such a phoney thing!I have yet to see 1 of these local elected officials really spend time with any employees of local restaurants aside from their employer& really talk to them in a good fashion & find out what their enviroment is really like uptown!Hell-there was a woman that worked up at Blutos Sports Bar for over 12 years when Sazdanoff owned it.A couple of years after the father passed awaythe son Tony"let her go" he told her she was wrong for his enviroement, that she was a "susie homaker",& that she should stay at home -not be working!This woman could probably tell you some really good true stories about a lot of people in Norwalk too!From all walks of life!How certain things get overlooked, by certain folks!I bet she could write a book on insiders secrets!The poor thing I know from the fieldI had been working in at that time Tony Sazdanoff even tried to fight her from getting unemployment!Let alone she had a work injury,due to his neglect from letting deep fryers overflow at night& not cleaning it up at all, the next morning she slips on it& injured her back!So severly she should have had surgery,but chose not too!He tried to fight her on that too!He ignored all workers comp. papers! The poor woman had to hire an attorney to get her medical bills paid!These elected officials should think twice about getting to schmoozing with some of these local people that they seem to be climbing into bed so to speak with!Hey look at me I got my pic. in the paper,but don't tell any one that I may be a local customer of these establishments, because I don't need the voters to know that I may have a few too many to drink, or that I may even play those tip tickets in the local places at times!Please think about your actions!

ANY IDEAS? (Ano...

Get this, I know someone that doug interviewed one day after reading her application& calling her to come in for an interview on that same day-which she did ,all he did was ask her for her ideas on what kind of specials & menu item's she thought he should bring in for the opening of the stinky dinky!She had excellent references from other establishments she had worked at.Plenty of expierince in the thought it was in poor taste what he was doing.Pumping her for info. on another local business! How did you do this? How was this done?How was that made? All of these questions he had for her,& he still did not hire her!!He's a USER!He took exactly what he wanted from her interview & more or less pushed her to the curb!!He didn't even say I'm sorry -were not hiring at this time!And council should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking about this!We need jobs in this county, yes but not from idiot's like plugie dougie!Employee's make a good business by good food,good service& sometimes a good price!Not the employers!!Hey plugie dougie needs to come up with his own ideas!Not steal them from someone looking for a job!!!!!!!!!!!!!

anon (Anonymous)

Its not so much about Berry wanting to use the public park as it is about our elected officials not immediately turning this down. He shouldn't be serving anything in the park. Vote out the mayor and city council.

Footlong (Anonymous)

It will be hard to vote the mayor out of office when she is running unopposed for re-election. Not everyone must think she is doing a bad job because no one seems to have the stones to even challenge her.