Luxe Bar and Grill on the Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms will be increasing its seasonal outdoor dining capacity by using two on-street parking spaces for additional tables.

Luxe Bar and Grill on the Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms will be increasing its seasonal outdoor dining capacity by using two on-street parking spaces for additional tables.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Expanded outdoor dining area approved for Luxe in Grosse Pointe Farms

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 7, 2021


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — For restaurants around the country, increasing the amount of space permitted for outdoor dining has been a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luxe Bar and Grill, at 115 Kercheval Ave. on the Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms, hopes to take advantage of more outdoor dining area by converting two on-street parking spaces in front of the restaurant into a dining platform.

“I believe this would be beneficial for both the city and us as a business,” Luxe owner Erion Balla said.

During a meeting by Zoom April 12, the Farms City Council approved a proposal from Luxe to create a dining platform using on-street parking spaces, albeit with a few changes from the original proposal submitted by the restaurateurs.

In a compromise between the restaurant’s original proposal and recommendations from the city’s planners at McKenna Associates, the motion approved by the council called for a reduction of 2 feet around all four sides of the on-street dining area — to create distance between diners, parkers and traffic — along with wheel-stop barriers for parkers, the creation of a 5-foot-wide sidewalk area for pedestrians, and city review of the project after the first year.

In addition, Luxe will have to pay the city $240 for the year — the estimated loss of revenue from the two on-street metered parking spots — among other conditions.

Edward Jeffries, who owns a neighboring property on the Hill, disagreed with Luxe’s proposal.

“I think Luxe is a great restaurant … but I think it’s unfair to the other restaurants (and businesses),” said Jeffries, adding that patrons of other businesses use those parking spaces.

In response to a question from Mayor Louis Theros, City Manager Shane Reeside said the municipal parking lot behind Rite Aid and the Henry Ford Medical Center—Cottage parking deck typically have available parking spaces.

“There really isn’t a parking availability issue on the Hill,” Reeside said. “There’s a (parking) convenience issue on the Hill.”

City Councilman Joe Ricci, who cast the sole vote against the Luxe proposal, was concerned about traffic, safety and the difficulty pedestrians have now with pushing a stroller down the sidewalk in front of Luxe.

“He’s already encroaching on the (parking spaces) in front of Rite Aid. … I just have real issues” with this, Ricci said.

City Councilman Neil Sroka, a parent of young children, said the Luxe proposal at least addresses the stroller issue because it creates a sidewalk path wide enough to accommodate strollers and pedestrians.

City Councilwoman Beth Konrad-Wilberding said she echoed some of Ricci’s concerns but also recognized the need to preserve the restaurants on the Hill.

“I’m not really in favor of any … cafés going into the street,” said Konrad-Wilberding, who also noted that the council’s decision would “set a precedent” for other restaurants in the district.

While it sounds counterintuitive, Sroka said, moving dining areas into streets actually makes those streets safer by slowing traffic.

“Bringing people into the street a little will ultimately make Kercheval safer, I think,” Sroka said.

Public Safety Director Daniel Jensen said Luxe’s owners have been “extremely cooperative” with regard to safety issues.

“I give them kudos,” Jensen said. “They definitely are safety conscious.”

However, Jensen was concerned about the height of the barricade around the dining platform, because the proposed 3-foot-tall one wouldn’t be adequate to protect diners and restaurant staff from a reckless motorist who drove into the platform.

“I would like to see a barricade … to at least slow down any car that might hit them,” Jensen said.

He said dining platforms have been struck by vehicles in other communities before, and the barricades can be made to look attractive while they serve a lifesaving function.

Theros asked Luxe officials if they’d be willing to work with the Public Safety Department on an improved barricade. The restaurant representatives said they would.

“We have worked with the city (before), and we will continue to work with the city,” Balla said. “I want you to be happy with the work that we do.”

Aside from wanting to see a stronger barrier, Jensen said he was in favor of Luxe’s plan.

“I think it’s great for the community,” Jensen said. “I think it’s great for the restaurants.”

He said he believed other Hill eateries would soon be requesting expanded outdooring dining using street parking, as well.

Reeside said officials, working with the city attorney, drafted an agreement that allows the city to remove the on-street dining platform at any time if safety becomes a problem. In addition, as with the city’s existing policy with regard to outdoor dining on the Hill, he said the platform and tables would only be permitted from April 1 to Nov. 15 and would need to be stored during the winter.