City Council approved a permanent patio for Detroit’s Finest Coney Island on Jefferson Avenue.

City Council approved a permanent patio for Detroit’s Finest Coney Island on Jefferson Avenue.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

Changes approved to help St. Clair Shores restaurants

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 21, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — As restaurants continue to be subject to shutdowns of in-person dining, they’re adapting with changes to better serve their customers, now and in the future.

Dozens of restaurants took advantage of a streamlined permitting process for temporary patios this summer, and now at least two local spots have been granted approval to make them a permanent fixture.

Detroit’s Finest Coney Island, 25801 Jefferson Ave., constructed an outdoor patio area in response to the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, when the city allowed any bar or restaurant to do so on a temporary basis as a way to accommodate customers during the pandemic. But owner Gjelosh Marjakaj came before City Council Nov. 16 to make the 1,450-square foot patio permanently available for customers.

“I hope it’s been good for your business. It certainly seems like it,” said Mayor Kip Walby. “It looks fantastic.”

The patio takes up three parking spaces in the parking lot and is surrounded by a wood-stained enclosure. Although the tables and chairs used over the summer were rented and had to be returned at the end of the season, Marjakaj told council members he planned to purchase his own dining furniture to be ready for 2021’s outdoor dining season.

“If something good came out of COVID, it was the fact that a lot of restaurants around town moved part of their business outside,” Councilman Ron Frederick said. “Having been there, it’s awesome, and with the lighting and the tables, you have a vision.”

Councilman John Caron said he had dined on the patio with some relatives.

“It was great sitting outdoors,” he said. “I appreciate that investment that you put into your business and into St. Clair Shores.”

Even with the colder weather, customers are still clamoring to huddle under blankets and enjoy their brews al fresco at Copper Hop Brewing Company, 23401 Greater Mack Ave.

“Fridays and Saturdays, good luck finding a seat,” said owner Ryan Balicki at the Dec. 7 City Council meeting.

He was also requesting that City Council permanently approve the patio that had been constructed between Copper Hop Brewing Company and neighboring Ace Hardware.

“Through this whole COVID process, everybody’s had to adapt,” he said, explaining that while there was always a plan to offer outdoor seating at the microbrewery, the pandemic and prohibitions on indoor dining and drinking sped up the process.

Caron, the City Council liaison to the St. Clair Shores Beautification Committee, said the group actually awarded Copper Hop a special Beautification Award this year for the Best COVID Patio.

Balicki said it will look even better in the future.

“We want to make it a really cool beer garden,” he said. “Make it a place people want to come visit.”

Despite only being open three months before the first COVID shutdown in March, Copper Hop Brewing Company has had customers come from as far as Berkley, Royal Oak and Birmingham, because St. Clair Shores’ four microbreweries make it a destination for craft beer enthusiasts.

City Council unanimously approved the request for site plan approval for the patio.

“The wood backboard makes it more of an enclosed feel,” Caron said. “I think you’re well on the way to making it a good destination spot.”

Charlie’s Restaurant, 22315 Harper Ave., also applied for and was approved for a transfer of a Class C liquor license to the city to allow for sales of alcohol at the restaurant, including on Sundays.

“It’s a family restaurant that has a liquor license, as opposed to a bar that serves food,” said attorney Raymond Andary, who represented the business at the Nov. 16 City Council meeting. “Just about everybody there is family.”

City officials told owner Tereza Duhanaj the restaurant is an asset to the city.

“It’s a great place. It’s a great part of St. Clair Shores,” Mayor Kip Walby said.

“You guys run a wonderful restaurant. Great food, no problems,” agreed City Councilman Dave Rubello.

Frederick said it was through the work of businesses like Charlie’s Restaurant that the area was becoming a “nice little part of town.”

“Thanks for being there,” he said.