Since at least May, some business owners along the section of Western between N.W. 40th and N.W. 50th streets have protested against an alcoholic beverage permit in buildings formerly occupied by Fruiti Yogurt and Sipango Lounge.
The issue also involves Cafe Nova, which sits across the street from the forthcoming restaurant, Cork & Bun; both are part of the Deep Fork Group.
Some business owners said the situation is already to a point where their lots are being used by Cafe Nova valets during busy periods. They argue that the addition of another restaurant without dedicated parking will make matters worse.
War on Western
The issue was first aired publicly during a May 24 city Planning Commission meeting. Cork & Bun’s designer, Dave Ledbetter, was joined by Deep Fork Group’s Dave Attalla to obtain proper zoning for Cork & Bun to serve alcohol.
When asked by commissioners about a plan for parking, Attalla said there was an agreement with Cafe Nova to use that restaurant’s valet service to park cars in the lot currently used by Nova.
But Carl Milam, owner of Western Concepts — which owns the Will Rogers Theatre, Musashi’s and Sushi Neko in the area — said valets at Cafe Nova already have been using some of his restaurants’ parking and had stopped using the city-approved lot after about six months.
“We want people to come to the neighborhood, but when it was allowed that Cafe Nova came in with insufficient parking, it created a big problem in the neighborhood,” Milam told commissioners.
Another restaurant without its own parking would exacerbate the problem, he said. Milam noted that he actually had some Cafe Nova valet drivers race through his kitchen at Will Rogers Theatre to return to Cafe Nova after parking cars in his lot.
“In reality, it’s going to cause me to hire people to watch our parking lots. It’s going to be a war out there for on-street parking,” Milam said.
Attalla declined comment for this story.
Commission members said approving the zoning measure might increase traffic, but since the only question before them was an alcoholic beverage issue, not parking, there was little they could do. The measure won unanimous approval.
When the issue came before the City Council on July 3, however, Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid said he had been contacted by both business owners and residents who said parking was already a nightmare. He said some restaurant patrons have even resorted to residential parking spaces.
Chad Bleakley, owner of VZD’s Restaurant & Club, spoke against the approval of the alcoholic beverage zoning. He alleged Cafe Nova was not in compliance with its parking variance and that having valet parking for Cork & Bun across the street with no crosswalk or stop lights would create a hazard.
“It’s just going to be adding more danger to it,” Bleakley told the council. “The parking in these areas is difficult, but if I equated the parking problem to a forest fire, and the customers are the wood, it wouldn’t make much sense to me to say, ‘Let’s just throw more wood on this fire,’ when we’re trying to find a solution.”
The council voted to table the issue until July 31.
Editor’s note: Bleakley is the son of Oklahoma Gazette Publisher Bill Bleakley, and is an employee of Tierra Media Group.