Dirty Dog to expand with seasonal on-street dining platforms

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 14, 2021

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The Dirty Dog Jazz Café on the Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms will become the second restaurant to expand its outdoor options with dining platforms on Kercheval Avenue.

Developer Ed Russell appeared in front of the Farms City Council June 14 on behalf of Dirty Dog owner Gretchen Valade. In addition to the four outdoor tables the restaurant and jazz club has had for years on the sidewalk, Russell said they hoped to build a dining deck that would occupy two parking spots directly in front of the Dirty Dog, giving them room for another five outdoor tables.

“Certainly, we can all agree that restaurants have felt the brunt of COVID,” Russell said.

He said the two spaces are less than the width of the building, so they wouldn’t be encroaching on the frontage of any other Hill businesses.

“This is just a small enhancement of their footprint,” Russell said.

City Councilwoman Beth Konrad-Wilberding asked how the restaurant would enable diners to hear the live music performed by jazz musicians inside during the evening, given that “the appeal of the Dirty Dog has always been the music inside.”

Dirty Dog Manager Willie Jones said they have speakers outside that are used for lunch and dinner crowds — something they had even before COVID-19 made outdoor dining more popular.

“It’s just another form of attraction,” Jones said.

Those wishing to watch a concert are advised to make reservations in advance, as Jones said the intimate nature of the Dirty Dog means that indoor seating is limited.

City Councilman Neil Sroka said people want to go out again, and the Hill has a good mix of offices, whose use peaks during the day Mondays through Fridays, and restaurants, where use tends to be higher during the evenings and weekends. That translates into greater availability of shared parking.

“I’m very excited about this,” Sroka said of the Dirty Dog’s outdoor dining expansion. “I think the music that comes out … makes for a very vibrant community.”

City Councilman John Gillooly said he was “generally in favor” of the proposal but wanted to see greater protection for diners from vehicles.

Russell said their design was an effort to mirror that of Luxe, which was given the green light in April to build a dining platform on two on-street parking spaces.

“We’re certainly open to anything the council would put forward,” Russell said.

Public Safety Director Daniel Jensen said short of concrete barriers — which “are ugly,” take up considerable space and can still be pushed into people by a vehicle — there aren’t too many options that can protect on-street diners from an out-of-control motorist.

“Any time you put things in the street … you have an inherent risk for accidents,” Jensen said.

He said other cities that have had on-street dining — including Birmingham, Plymouth and Northville — have used blockades ranging from a faux wrought iron railing to a barrier filled with water.

“That’s not going to stop a car — that’s going to give people a shower,” Jensen said of the latter.

However, Jensen said the other cities haven’t experienced diners being injured by motorists.

“It’s one of the risks, without a doubt,” Jensen said. “But the other cities haven’t had problems. … The barrier is what it is.”

Mayor Louis Theros said Luxe has bigger crowds than ever now that it offers more outdoor dining.

“The vibrancy of the Hill is key to the whole community’s recovery,” Theros said.

Dr. Edward Jeffries, who owns the Hill building at 100 Kercheval Ave., submitted a letter to the council expressing his opposition to the loss of on-street parking, saying he was “negatively affected” by it and adding that the pandemic is “on the wane,” which should be reducing the demand for outdoor dining.

“Restaurants on the Hill already enjoy dining on the sidewalk,” Jeffries wrote.

He said that allowing the restaurants to now use on-street parking spots to increase outdoor dining space amounted to the council showing favoritism for one type of business over others.

“This is a detriment to all who make their living on the Hill,” Jeffries wrote.

City Manager Shane Reeside said that Henry Ford Medical Center—Cottage used to have metered parking spaces in front. He said the city could reinstall those meters to increase on-street parking on the Hill.

“Overall, parking on the Hill is an issue of perception,” Reeside said. “The M.O. (municipal) lot (behind the businesses) is rarely full.”

Reeside added that on-street dining platforms would only be used during the summer and early fall and would be removed before winter, restoring use of those spaces to motorists during the most inclement time of the year.

The council unanimously approved the Dirty Dog’s proposal with several conditions, including the addition of wheel stops and increased visibility of the buffer to traffic. Like Luxe, the Dirty Dog will be required to pay the city $240 for the year — the estimated loss of revenue from the two on-street metered parking spots.