Henry DeHoog hopes to open an extension of his Homeplate Pub on the south side of East Main Street — a year-round, outdoor seating area in the B Street Plaza just to the east of his establishment.
As such it would be the first outdoor seating area in Auburn’s public right of way — the rest are on private property.
DeHoog requires a permit from the City to proceed, and on Monday presented his plans to the Planning and Community Development Committee.
“We want to do this in a tasteful way, following the guidelines. We want to create some life there,” DeHoog said. “… The intent is certainly to enhance what we have, and of course, hopefully, more business. More business is always good, it generates more taxes and revenue.”
According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, servers could run food outside and set it on tables but customers would have to buy their alcohol inside the pub, walk through the door into the gated area and seat themselves.
Also under state law, the outdoor extension of the pub would become a no-smoking area, and because smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of public accommodations, the smoking boundary would move 25 feet beyond the outside boundary of the seating area.
Assistant City Attorney Steve Gross noted one wrinkle: B Street Plaza is a public right of way, and state law still permits smoking while walking within a public right of way.
“It would be an interesting exercise to take the B Street Plaza, given the outdoor seating and all the other entrances to buildings, and try to figure out where in the plaza one would be allowed to smoke when you combine that with the provision of state law that says you’re allowed to smoke while walking on a public right of way,” Gross said.
Plans call for a fence around the area, but no permanent structures.
DeHoog said he intends to cut a door through the eastern wall of his business. And because of the expense he expects to incur doing that, with the concurrent need to recoup this investment, any permit covering a period less than five years would not work for him financially.
Planning and Community Development Director Kevin Snyder said accommodations would have to be made for other uses of the site.
Councilman and committee member John Holman said people he had talked to about the idea in the last week told him that they didn’t feel the outdoor area wouldn’t be any more disruptive than any other alcohol-serving establishment.
Indeed, in his research, the only feared negative impact he heard about was “disruptive behavior” and that was expressed by people who were smoking outside the Homeplate.
“I asked their opinion of it, and kind of the only negative impact came from your customers themselves about, perhaps, boorish behavior because of other things,” Holman told DeHoog.
DeHoog said he had “given the idea careful thought. We don’t want it to become a nuisance issue. We don’t want it to become an eyesore. We want to do it right because there’s a precedent with this, and it’s important.”
“It’s in line with what we’re looking for in the area of having a pedestrian friendly, open atmosphere and having people on Main Street,” said Deputy Mayor Nancy Backus, committee chairwoman.
Committee members forwarded the permit application to the Public Works Committee.