By David Judd
Southside Louie’s will soon have its outdoor patio again.
Owner Louis Debono recently removed the patio from the side of his downtown restaurant in response to an order from Norfolk County.
But the patio will soon return after county council approved a new lease agreement with Mr. Debono at a special meeting last Tuesday.
The patio will take one day to reinstall, Mr. Debono said in an interview.
It should be in place well before the next Friday the 13th event in March.
Social media erupted with questions and complaints after the patio was removed 10 days ago.
Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin scrambled to learn what had happened and explained things to critics on Facebook.
At her request last Tuesday, council quickly granted a new lease for the patio and told staff to come up with a general policy for patios by the end of February.
Coun. Martin was pleased a solution was found.
Above: Southside Louie’s patio on Clinton Street at Main Street on Monday afternoon of this week.
In an interview, she said bylaw enforcement staff had done nothing wrong as they carried out their jobs.
But Coun. Martin wished staff had held off ordering the patio removed.
The Port Dover councillor would have preferred more flexibility and communication involving a downtown business.
Norfolk County owns the land along Clinton Street on the south side of Southside Louie’s.
In 2006, Mr. Debono bought the Main Street restaurant then known as Capt’n Billy’s.
In 2012, county council agreed to lease land on Clinton Street for a patio with room for 60 patrons.
As part of the deal, which was for warm months only, Mr. Debono spent $16,000 installing curbs and sidewalk.
He also expanded the restaurant’s kitchen and washrooms to accommodate the additional customers.
The deal was a pilot project, which council later renewed until April 2016 at which time the lease expired.
The patio lease was not a concern for years.
From 2015 to 2017 parts of Main Street closed for reconstruction.
And the restaurant itself closed for months of renovations, emerging as Southside Louie’s.
In October 2019 a bylaw enforcement officer realized the patio’s lease had expired and in November ordered it removed.
Mr. Debono asked to buy the patio site or renew the lease but no county policy would allow his requests.
So Mr. Debono removed his patio early in January and Facebook hit the fan.
Mayor Kristal Chopp agreed with some of the criticism.
“I can’t think of a bigger waste,” she told council at a special meeting last Tuesday.
The order to remove the patio flew in the face of council’s campaign promises of cutting red tape and making Norfolk more welcoming for business, Mayor Chopp said.
The patio had been used all year without complaints, the mayor said.
Coun. Martin told council it’s not a priority for Norfolk to hinder business, especially in Port Dover where there is a moratorium on new development.
Coun. Martin questioned if the patio had to be removed before it was permitted again.
A lease is not a good way to allow a patio, county solicitor Paula Boutis told council.
Instead, staff will propose a licence or permit system that would apply for all patios, she said in an interview.