Berry's wants outside drinking spot|But proposed cafe location is on public property

NORWALK Berry's Restaurant wants to spill out onto the sidewalk. But serving alcohol alfresco on public property has c
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Berry's Restaurant wants to spill out onto the sidewalk.

But serving alcohol alfresco on public property has city residents buzzing.

Berry's has been a family owned and operated restaurant since 1946. Running the business alongside his father and mother, Doug Berry is working to keep the tradition alive by trying to bring new business to downtown Norwalk and making customers' dining experiences more enjoyable.

"Many guests would like to have a beer, wine or liquor while eating outside," Berry said referring to the outside patio area adjacent to his business. "Norwalk used to have a lot of retail business around town, but malls have drawn them out of most of the small towns in this area. We need to put retail business back in our town."

The problem? The patio area adjacent to Berry's Restaurant and Dinky's, the bar half of the restaurant, is leased property of the city's referred to as the Lawrence G. Bresson Park.

In an attempt to take alcohol outside, Berry has talked to Norwalk City Council members about his plans, showing them what he'd like to do. The plans include posting signs required by the Division of Liquor Control and adding a partial fence to keep patrons within limits.

E-mails from council members and comments made at a recent Norwalk City Council meeting indicate that council is all for bringing new demographics and businesses back into their town, but are wary of allowing alcohol in a public park.

Councilwoman Tera Thornhill and several others said Norwalk is family-oriented with strong values and worries that alcohol in a public park would set the wrong tone for the downtown. Thornhill added in an e-mail that many families park in the parking areas adjacent to the area and walk through the park with their children in tow.

Resident Dan Shaffer agrees. He said that families would not appreciate walking through a restaurant and bar serving area.

"I'm not bothered by the situation, but a lot of other people are out here more than I am, especially families that may see this differently," he said.

Another resident, Lenny Kromer said that with proper care, the situation could be a great boost for the small town.

"As long as the area is barricaded and youngsters can't get at it, then why not?" he said. "It's only to have a drink or two with their meal after a long day."

Many customers eating lunch at Berry's Thursday afternoon defended their beloved dining place and added that they hardly ever encounter a drunken situation at the restaurant. They said people just enjoy a beer or glass of wine while relaxing in a casual atmosphere.

"Whenever I go somewhere to dine out," resident Sara Smith said, "I look for places with outdoor seating. If I want to have a drink at Berry's, then I'm confined inside."

There seems to be just as many residents against the proposed outdoor serving. Many said that a public area should not have alcohol.

Councilman Shane Penrose said he understands Berry's attempt to better the town and the business.

"I applaud the fact that Mr. Berry is working hard to attract more business to downtown Norwalk," he said in an e-mail. "His ideas may very well appeal to an untapped demographic downtown. With that said, I have serious reservations about allowing alcohol to be served on public property."

Councilman Skip Wilde said that if Berry's owned the property, it wouldn't be an issue. But it is city property, he contends, and if they let Berry's serve, it sets a precedent for future request.

Steve Euton, city council president, said he sees both sides of the issue.

"Mr. Berry has worked hard to present a plan to the council that, if successful, will increase numbers in the uptown area," he said.

The council has discussed and reviewed this matter in a work session and the matter will be further discussed at council meetings in June.