Some German Village residents said they have the feeling they have been here before.
Not three years have passed since the Columbus Board of Zoning Adjustment denied Rockmill Tavern's plan to build a patio at 525 S. Fourth St.
The owners of El Lugar and Alpine restaurants at the site, which formerly was Juergens German Bakery, have returned with a request to create a 599-square-foot patio bordered on the east by a 42-inch-tall wrought-iron fence.
The patio, with seating for up to 60 people, would be landscaped and the existing parking lot would be resurfaced, the site plan said.
The proposal also comes with a parking variance that would allow 11 parking spaces instead of the 29 required by city code.
The German Village Commission considered the matter at its May 7 meeting. The commission voted in support of several provisions, such as the landscaping, resurfacing the existing parking lot and creating a new trash-receptacle area with a 6-foot-tall solid wooden fence.
The commission likely, at a later date, will vote on other conditions, such as whether to recommend a parking variance and allow stacked parking, where cars are essentially double-parked by a valet service to save space.
The commission only has advisory power on such requests; the Columbus BZA or Columbus City Council would have the final say.
Some residents said they aren't feeling much better about the current concept than they did about Rockmill's.
"I'm telling you as a resident, (parking is) worse than it's ever been," Steve Connor told commission members.
"The big issues remain the same," Jim Nicholson said.
The request comes at a time when the city of Columbus is asking residents in German Village and other South Side neighborhoods to assist in creating long-term parking issues in the neighborhood.
A.J. Ndreu, along with partners Enis Ndreu and Elidon Hizmo, opened El Lugar and Alpine, two distinct dining concepts under one roof in summer 2018. The project is similar to one proposed in 2016 by Lancaster-based Rockmill Brewery, which wanted to open a tavern on the Juergens' site, but neighbors complained about the project, citing the lack of on-street parking and probable noise from an outdoor patio.
The BZA rejected Rockmill's request, and the tavern later opened in the nearby Brewery District.
Ndreu said things are different these days. Alpine and El Lugar are restaurants that serve, but are not centered on, alcohol, he said.
"Most of the people who come in, they drink wine," he said, noting it's not a "bar scene" with noisy patrons. "We don't have that type of clientele. We have a nice clientele."
Ndreusaid the owners are willing to close the patio at 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.
He said Lindey's Restaurant & Bar 169 Beck St., and G. Michael's Bistro & Bar have patios and he believes his restaurants should be permitted to have one, as well.
"What can I say? Everybody has a patio," he said. "That's where everyone wants to sit. It's summertime."