A history of problem bars in the Brice Road area is causing Reynoldsburg City Council members to be cautious in approving a special exception use permit for Marcella Croft's soul food restaurant.
Councilman Cornelius McGrady III said he is opposed to the restaurant if alcohol will be served on the premises.
During a service committee meeting July 15, council members questioned Croft about liquor sales and the hours of operation at All About Music-the Next Level, a soul food restaurant she wants to open at 1922 Brice Road.
Committee Chairman Mel Clemens said he brought Croft's request for a special exception use permit up for consideration because there are a number of drinking establishments in the Brice Road area.
"This was passed for a first reading last week but we needed more discussion because this is an area where we've removed some drinking establishments and we have already had problems with bars in this area," Clemens said. "This is a problem we are trying to correct and we had some confusion about what hours the restaurant would be open."
Croft said she was not aware of problems in the area.
"If I had known there were problems with location, I would not have looked in this area," she said.
She said the restaurant will have live music at times, but a lot of the music will be on Sundays and may be gospel music.
"It is a restaurant and we would like to serve liquor, but on Sundays, if liquor sales are not allowed, we would not be selling alcohol," she said. "The restaurant brings food and music together. It is modeled after the Gladys Knight restaurant in Atlanta."
McGrady said he objects to any liquor sales.
"As Councilman Clemens said, we have had problems in that area and are getting ready to do a major development, so we have to protect our interests in that area and address the safety issues," McGrady said. "I will not support another establishment that serves or sells liquor."
That major development is a $4.9-million project expected to start next spring to resurface 6,900 feet of Brice Road, add new sidewalks and reconstruct others, replace the existing traffic signals at Brice and East Livingston Avenue and add a westbound lane on East Livingston Avenue. Two pedestrian traffic islands also will be installed.
The city received a $3.6 million grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission that will cover most of the estimated project costs.
Clemens said when Croft's application came before the Reynoldsburg Board of Zoning and Building Appeals, the restaurant's hours were similar to bar hours. Councilwoman Leslie Kelly said she thought it was established during the BZBA meeting that the restaurant would close by midnight.
Croft said her reason for wanting to stay open later is to give people who attend a late movie or concert a place to eat soul food.
Clemens asked if it would be considered a club.
"When I think of a club, I think of a place that provides for dancing," Croft said.
Kelly said she hoped the restaurant would have more of a family atmosphere. She said she would support the special exception use permit if it were open only until midnight.
The ordinance to provide the special use permit will be sent to the full council for a second reading Monday, July 22. That meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Reynoldsburg Municipal Building, 7232 E. Main St.
"This could be approved with restrictions," Clemens told Croft. "We don't want something like a nightclub in that district."