The Fort Wayne Plan Commission will make a decision in a couple of weeks on whether to approve a waiver on design plans for a dining area behind JK O’Donnell’s Irish Ale House.
The plan commission held a public hearing Jan. 9 that included JK O’Donnell’s request for a waiver to install a retractable awning in a 2,700-square-foot space at the rear of the pub, 121 W. Wayne St.
Dodd Kattman of MKM architecture + design described how the city a few years ago approached the pub about developing the area behind it.
“As you know we have our alleyways, and the art in our alleyways is such a source of pride in this community, and they had approached JK O’Donnell’s wondering if they would be willing to develop this space behind the restaurant,” Kattman told plan commission members.
A year ago the pub bought the property, which now is used for parking. It wants to build a steel-frame structure to support a retractable canvas awning, that’s being called a pergola. Current code limits the structure to 25% of the building’s footprint. The space is surrounded by three buildings, which includes the pub and another building that it owns, for a total of 4,760 square feet, meaning the pub wants a waiver to use another 1,510 feet.
Eliminating the parking area also will lead to less traffic in the alley because service vehicles will serve the building from Wayne Street in the front, rather than in the rear, he said.
Cari Bean of the pub explained that it would use the space during special events, such as its St. Patrick’s Day festivities, which includes music. Currently, it rents a large tent out front for such activities, which requires a closure of Wayne Street on that block.
However, nearby residents are concerned about noise, access to their garages in the alley and trash or patrons urinating in the alley.
Steve Hinkle, who has lived in the neighboring Midtowne Crossing Condominiums, said the music over the summer from JK O’Donnell’s “went on till 10 o’clock and I couldn’t hear my television.”
Also, he worries that patrons will block Midtowne’s two garage entrances in the alley.
Another Midtowne neighbor said his building’s neighbors want a guarantee of access to their garages at all times, a fence to keep the pub patrons out of the alley, daily cleanup of the alley at the pub’s expense and an increase in security during the patio season.
Other neighbors voiced similar concerns.
The new structure will have a bar, kitchen area and a restroom in it.
The fire marshal’s office requires exits that would give all ages of patrons access to enter from or exit into the alley, Bean said. The pub has an all-ages area in the back of its building. Responding to a concern voiced by Tom Freistroffer, City Council representative on the plan commission, Bean said the pub would try to prevent patrons from smoking in the alley near residences.
“We want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We hope that maybe we can keep the alley a little bit cleaner than it’s being kept right now.”
Some neighbors have overflowing trash containers in the alley, she said.
The pub’s hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, and the pub would expects to start by offering the new space on weekends only, possibly with live bands.
“There’s noise downtown, unfortunately, whether its TinCaps fireworks, garbage trucks, sirens, motorcycles in the summertime,” Bean said. “We’re not trying to be intrusive.”