A new bistro is looking to open on the second floor of Papa Joe's Gourmet Market, but the Birmingham City Commission needs a little bit more time to think about the plans and what it means for Birmingham's bistro ordinance.
Papa Joe's Gourmet Market came to the city commission Monday night asking that Addie & Jack's LLC — a new restaurant concept created by Tallulah and Bella Piatti owner Mindy Lopus — be assigned as a co-licensee on Papa Joe's bistro license and Class C liquor license.
Papa Joe's received a bistro license in 2007 to open Bistro Joe's on its second-floor mezzanine level.
However on Monday night, Papa Joe's owner Tony Curtis said he wanted Lopus to run the bistro operations, given her experience in Birmingham's restaurant scene. Upon agreeing to the plan, Lopus decided to change the name of the bistro to Addie & Jack's.
By becoming a co-licensee on the bistro license and liquor license, Curtis' attorney Kelly Allen said the restaurant is truly a shared operation. If Lopus merely managed the bistro, she could only earn 10 percent of the gross sales.
Proposal a possible 'assault on the bistro concept'
However, commissioners were initially confused and then concerned with Curtis' plans, unsure whether approval meant two bistros would be operating at Papa Joe's. Currently, Curtis is using his bistro license to sell beer and wine at the first-floor Gourmet To Go cafe. Allen, however, said Curtis is willing to stop selling alcohol downstairs immediately.
Still, commissioners noted how many times Curtis' plans for Papa Joe's have stalled and changed since the bistro license was issued in 2007. City Commissioner Gordon Rinschler said the plans were, in many ways, "an assault on the bistro concept."
"We're not sure exactly what's being proposed," Mayor Mark Nickita said. "We like to be flexible and we've proven to be quite flexible on the bistro concept. But you're already starting with a deviation of the concept and there are clear things we want to achieve (with Birmingham's bistro licenses)."
Birmingham's bistro ordinance was passed in 2007. Under the ordinance, only two new bistros are approved each year and are defined as having seasonal sidewalk seating, a full-service kitchen and no more than 65 seats. Bistros must sign a contract with the city.
In addition, commissioners were concerned that adding a co-licensee to an existing bistro license goes against the original intent of the ordinance. Rinschler said bistros were supposed to be "self-extinguishing," meaning licenses wouldn't be transferred.
"Are we creating a back-door way to keep these contracts alive?" Rinschler asked.
City attorney Tim Currier said all new co-licensees — such as the case with Papa Joe's and Addie & Jack's — must come before the city commission, meaning it's up to commissioners to decide how long contracts can be extended.
"We have to remember that the whole bistro concept is an evolving concept but we have to remember the original intent," Commissioner Scott Moore said.
The issue will come back before the city commission at a later date once the city reviews Papa Joe's Special Land Use Permit, issued with the bistro license in 2007.