Saturday, March 09, 2013

Salt Lake Tribune: Ogden Man Claims His Business Will Die Without Live Performers

One man’s vision of creating a vibrant alcohol-free hangout for teens and live performers hinges on approval of a new social hall definition by the "usual" Ogden City bureaucrats

Just to get some discussion going this morning, we'll put the spotlight on an enlightening March 8 "local" story from the Salt Lake Tribune, reporting about one Ogden City entrepreneur's effort to rev up his start-up business, and breathe some life into the sorely dilapidated shopping center at Ogden's 31st and Harrison, amidst the ever-present backdrop of Ogden City mindless bureaucracy and time-and-energy-consuming red tape (although there does seem to be some "hope at the end of the tunnel"):
Boiling down Cathy McKitrick's 3/8/13 Trib writeup, we present for our Weber County Forum readers what we deem to be the essential facts:  

Harrison Plaza Shopping Center
Last fall, Earnie McKown began renovating a large building he leases in the old Harrison Plaza Shopping Center, where he performed building renovations and commenced operating an "alcohol-free hangout for teens" called  Paris Cafe.  Finding his initial format, involving "DJs, pool, 'specials' and a 'canned' music" wasn't cutting it financially, he cleverly modified his business model to feature "live" band performances, a tactic that immediately "took off." "Within three weeks," according to Mr. McKown,"my business doubled and I could start paying rent."

The "fly in the ointment" however, as the ever-competent Ms. McKitrick reports -- "Under current zoning, McKown can operate as a 'social hall' but is not allowed to host live entertainment."

After "a mystery somebody" "dropped the dime" on him,  resulting in an Ogden City code violation citation,  Mr. McKown then bravely, and in the highest entrepreneurial spirit, thereafter set forth on a battle with the Ogden City bureaucratic big shots, an effort which was at least temporarily frustrated when in October of 2012, "the Ogden Planning Commission voted 6-1 to deny his [request an amendment] of Ogden City' zoning ordinance, and a few weeks later the City Council unanimously concurred with that recommendation."

On a decidedly positive note for Mr. McKown however, the City Council did "leave the door open to revisit the vague social hall definition" at a subsequent time, and in accordance with this opportunity, Mr. McKown has thus feverishly set to work again, in cooperation with the city "planning" bureaucracy, to fashion a new Paris Cafe-friendly zoning ordinance, an effort which was most recently rewarded by a January 4-2 "favorable" Planning Commision vote. It's therefor all up to the council now to decide whether the eyesore Harrison Plaza Shopping Center property will experience a bright new revival, or revert to being essentially "boarded up," inasmuch as Mr. McKown has made it known that absent his new requested zoning code modification, he's fully prepared to pull up stakes and call it quits.

Needless to say, we'll be closely following this story as it develops; and we're keeping our fingers that this story will have an ultimate "happy ending."

But before closing this article out, we'll note that there's one interesting subplot to this story, O Gentle Readers, in connection with this aspect of the Trib facts which we've lifted from Ms. McKitrick's text:
Ron Atencio, owner of Mojos — a[nother] thriving all-ages live music venue in downtown Ogden that opened in 2004 — serves on the city’s planning commission and was among the six voting against McKown’s initial petition.
When, we ask, will our decision-making public servants (such as "ethically-conflicted" Planning Commissioner Attencio) ever learn that those in such positions who adhere to the highest ethical standards recuse themselves and don't vote on issues from which they, as potential business competitors, might derive clear financial benefit?

That's it folks. So who'll be the first to throw in their own 2¢?

3 comments:

Danny said...

It sounds like the city is trying to work with the guy and Atencio is not participating due to his conflict of interest.

This kind of place could be fun if done right.  IF.  Or it could be a noisy dive that drives people away and turns the area into a slum.  Let's do this right.

Earnest Mckown said...

thanks so much for your kind support and i hope to see all of you at the city council meeting on tues. one flaw that has become sadley apparent to me is that ogden city has forgotten itself in that it needs to serve the needs of the whole community and not just those who hold there cocktales with one finger out and look good in pictures ( i have an ogden is awesome shirt i got from grounds for coffee i was very proud of it... i now use it to clean the counters)

rudizink said...

 Thanks for checking in EM.  With Greg Montgomery's assistance in tweaking the ordinance, and the Planning Commission's favorable nod, it looks like you're on the right track, although there's still no guarantee that the City Council will ultimately go along with you.  Whatever happens though, we'll remain "all over" this story; and continue to wish you the best of luck.

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