Worthington News

P.K O'Ryan's owner: New downtown Worthington eateries 'killing us'

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Another restaurant is headed to downtown Worthington, despite the pleas of one local restaurateur who says the competition has gotten out of hand.

The Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission on June 12 approved plans for a new restaurant at 673 High St.

Building owner Harold "Sam" Baker plans to open a restaurant in the storefront formerly occupied by Damsels in This Dress. The site has been vacant for almost two years.

In his application with the city, he describes the planned eatery as "a sit-down, casual dining restaurant that will feature sustainable menu items, local fare items and items from local Worthington Farmers Market vendors."

Jay Ryan, co-owner of P.K. O'Ryan's Restaurant & Pub, 666 High St., spoke against granting an amendment to a conditional-use permit for the new restaurant.

When P.K. O'Ryan's opened 14 years ago, it was one of a handful of eating establishments in downtown Worthington and, Ryan said, was the only restaurant in the area serving pizza.

"You're killing us by allowing a sixth new restaurant since we've been there," he said.

Business is down 25 percent, he said, predicting that "somebody's going out of business."

He also said he was not notified when a conditional-use permit for the site was approved two years ago and learned only eight days prior to the ARB/ MPC meeting that an amendment was on the agenda.

Several MPC members said they understood his frustration with the number of new restaurants but that they had no power to control the type of businesses opening in downtown storefronts.

"I don't know if we have the authority to address that," said Richard Hunter, chairman of the joint ARB/MPC.

Though the city's comprehensive plan calls for a good mix of retail and restaurant uses in the central business district, city code limits the issues to be considered in granting conditional-use permits to traffic patterns, public facilities, sewage and drainage, utilities, safety and health, noise and odors, hours of use, screening from neighbors, and appearance and compatibility with the neighborhood.

The 5-0 vote to approve the conditional-use amendment came after Ryan's testimony.

Prior to the conditional-use hearing, the ARB voted 5-2 in favor of granting architectural approval for the plans, which were altered considerably during the meeting discussion.

James Sauer and Jo Rodgers voted no.

A seating area will be created using concrete planters.

Baker, who is an architect as well as the owner of the building and the operator of the proposed restaurant, proposed several major changes to the appearance of the building, which was constructed in the 1800s.

His request to move the front door was rejected. Instead of bringing it forward to be on a plane with the front of the storefront, it will remain recessed, at the request of the ARB.

Following some debate, plans to place a flat canopy above the storefront was approved, as were the sign and gooseneck lights above the white aluminum canopy.

The sign will return for the panel's approval later. At this point, the restaurant name has not been chosen.

Trim on the front of the building will be navy blue and white. Some ARB members objected to the color choice, but it was approved.

Plans to place awnings above the second-floor windows were not approved.

Baker said he hopes to open the restaurant in September or October.

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