St. Clair Shores restaurants, bars see permanent desire for outdoor dining

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 19, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Dreaming of enjoying a drink al fresco? So are local bar owners.

Two more St. Clair Shores establishments came before St. Clair Shores City Council Feb. 16 seeking approval for additional outdoor seating to meet the demands for al fresco patio drinking and dining.

Joe VanderMarliere, the owner of Baffin Brewing Company, 25113 Jefferson Ave., came to City Council seeking approval for an additional permanent outdoor seating area on the north side of the building. The brewery had already set up temporary seating in that area to accommodate more outdoor drinkers with COVID-19 restrictions and now wants to make that expansion more permanent.

“We’ve been thinking outside the box, trying to get people to stay outside when they can’t fit inside,” VanderMarliere said. “The city’s been very supportive of us.”

The 640-square-foot section will be covered by a 16-by 40-foot awning, with picnic tables to be located under the awning and the area to be enclosed with either alternating planters and beer barrels or a rigid fabric kick wall.

Although a mural was painted on the side of the building to brighten spirits during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the awning will cover a portion of that, VanderMarliere said, so they will be working with the city to get a permanent mural painted.

“We’re trying to give back now, as much as we can, because our community has kept us in business over the past 12 months,” he said.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie said the sign ordinance committee was working to make St. Clair Shores more “mural friendly.”

“We need to be business-friendly, and I think this would be a nice addition to Jefferson,” she said.

Mayor Kip Walby said he nearly always sees customers outside at Baffin.

“It seems like you guys have been doing pretty well,” he said.

VanderMarliere agreed.

“We’ve spent a ton on propane, that’s for sure,” he quipped.

City Council unanimously approved the request.

“We love what you’re doing over there,” said Councilman Ron Frederick. “Even with the food trucks, it’s not overcrowded.”

A few miles north, XO Sports Bar, 31033 Jefferson Ave., was also looking to expand their outdoor seating. The bar currently has 448 feet of outdoor seating and wanted to double that on the other side of the entrance door. City Planner Liz Koto said the bar owner also wanted to add two glass overhead doors leading out to the patio and install outdoor awnings over those doors.

She said the bar had not had any complaints or violations since City Council voted to allow it to have a television outside, on until 2 a.m.

Because the proposed patio and awning are within the right-of-way of Jefferson Avenue and will allow for more seating, the bar will need to get setback and parking variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and it will sign a lease with the city for use of the right-of-way.

“Everyone seems to be going with the open-air stuff,” said Councilman Dave Rubello. “These are great, business-friendly things we’re doing.”