By Michelle Dupler
Members of the Reynoldsburg City Council’s Service Committee weren’t quite ready to bite on a proposed soul food restaurant that also would serve alcohol in an area with a reputation for alcohol-related crimes.
Marcella Croft, the Columbus resident who wants to open the restaurant on Brice Road at Livingston Avenue, said at a committee meeting July 15 that it would be modeled after the Chicken and Waffles soul food restaurant singer Gladys Knight owns in Atlanta, and would offer a family atmosphere with special event music performances.
Croft has been trying to get a special exception use permit, but has run into obstacles because she wants to serve alcohol.
Councilman Mel Clemens, chairman of the Service Committee, told Croft that the city has had problems with bars in that area and he was reluctant to approve a new establishment that would serve liquor.
“We have removed quite a few drinking establishments there,” Clemens said. “Our district this is located in has been a problem we’re trying to correct.”
Clemens said he wanted to give Croft an opportunity to explain to council members her plans, including proposed hours of operation – which were a discussion point for the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment when it considered Croft’s special use application.
Croft wants to stay open until midnight, which she said is similar to restaurants that serve alcoholic drinks such as Applebee’s, and would allow her to serve people looking for a place to eat after leaving a nighttime play or concert.
But council members were concerned about the possibility that patrons might stay past midnight to finish food or drinks.
Councilwoman Leslie Kelly said she could support a midnight closing time if that time was firm.
“I have an issue with people staying past midnight to finish food or drink,” Kelly said. “What if they finish their drink and want another drink and another drink? It’s a slippery slope. … Midnight goes along with (other restaurants). I think that’s where you keep yourself out of the idea of a bar. There is not a place for a bar in that area.”
Councilman Cornelius McGrady III said he opposed allowing an establishment that served alcohol at all.
“I appreciate your concern and understand your sales pitch but that particular area is generating a lot of attention. We’re getting ready to do major construction there,” McGrady said. “I’m not against development. I’m against the alcohol.”
Rose Oberst, the leasing agent for the Brice Road property where Croft wants to locate, said the $4,000 per month rent would make it impossible for a restaurant owner to survive without alcohol sales to beef up revenues.
“Any business owner coming in could not afford that,” she said.
She noted that similar businesses already have existed in that location, and have been approved in the area.
“There has never been a problem at that center,” Oberst said. “We had a restaurant with a bar in it previously before (Croft) came to lease. My understanding is there has never been a problem.”
The committee voted 5-1 to send the special use permit to a vote at the next council meeting. McGrady voted no. Councilman Scott A. Barrett was absent.