Saline City Council took no action on Brecon Grille’s request to renew a license agreement with the city for use of “Leather Bucket Alley,” a city-owned alley between the downtown restaurant and Benito’s Pizza.
In 2013, the alley was opened with great fanfare. Saline Main Street raised money to purchase a sign for the alley. The city encouraged the owners of Mangiamo Italian Grill and Brecon Grille to improve the backs of their restaurants and then agreed to lease space in the alley to the restaurants for seating. The rent? $1 a year. In exchange, the space would be available for public events up to six times a year.
Members of city council posed questions about Brecon Grille’s request to renew the agreement for three years.
Councillor Janet Dillon asked if other downtown businesses had been asked if they wanted to utilize space in the alley. City Manager Todd Campbell said that in the past, Leather Bucket Alley had been available to Brecon Grille, Benito’s and Mangiamo – which was replaced by Smokehouse 52. Clerk Terri Royal said when she last spoke with representatives of Smokehouse and Benito’s, she did not come away with the impression they were interested in putting tables in Leather Bucket Alley.
Dillon asked if the restaurants had been formally invited by the city. Campbell said in the past the city has not sent letters to the businesses inviting them to use the alley. Instead, they’ve waited until they were approached to make the alley available to the restaurants.
Dillon then suggested the alley ought to be publicly available to anyone who wants to dine, relax or work outdoors.
“I think it needs to remain a public space and be available to the community. When we reached an agreement three years ago, downtown had a different dynamic,” Dillon said. “It would be nice to offer individuals a place to eat, work or relax.”
Dillon noted the city and Saline Main Street are working on improving a public space, Merchant Park, on the north side of downtown. Merchant Park, located behind Guaranteed Rate and Dan’s, is actually privately owned, but the city is leasing it.
“There’s an effort into making Merchant Park a public space. I don’t know why we would not echo that on the other side of the street,” Dillon said.
Mayor Brian Marl said he saw validity in Dillon’s argument. Instead of a three-year lease, he suggested a one-year lease on the property. He also suggested sending letters to the management of Benito’s and Smokehouse 52 and giving them one last chance to take advantage of Leather Bucket Alley – perhaps before the city starts examining a more public space.
City Manager Campbell noted that even if Brecon Grille leases the alley for dining – it remains a public space.
“If someone wanted to walk up and down the alley in perpetuity, they could,” Campbell noted.
And he reminded council the city can ask the restaurants to move tables and chairs for a public event with five days notice.
Councillor Heidi McClelland said she uses the alley in her photography business several times a week and never has issues.
City staff will contact neighboring businesses and consult with Main Street before taking up the issue again June 17.