Commission leery of plan for downtown bar

Members table request over concerns about electronic gambling lounge in high profile location

A decision on a bar with gaming machines proposed for Grafton’s Mill Square has been tabled amid concerns the operation may not fit into the village’s downtown image. 

The bar, which would be located in the former Lash Boutique Grafton at 1208 12th Ave., was proposed by David Boulanger. 

Boulanger wants to establish a bar and video gambling lounge that only serves beer He said the bar, which is not a franchise, would be the first he’s opened. 

Boulanger has not requested a full liquor license, which would come with a $10,000 fee from the village. 

The 1,300-square-foot space would have a bar, about five gaming machines, multiple televisions for watching sports, couches and other seating. 

The bar and lounge would operate from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Saturday. 

The Plan Commission considered the proposal on Feb. 22. 

Community Development Director Jessica Wolff said the proposed business is allowed in Mill Square’s commercial district and that village staff recommends approval with conditions. 

Wolff noted that several residents have contacted the village with concerns about the proposal. 

One concern came from Jeff and Julie Prochnow, whose plans for an Airbnb rental space, located above the proposed bar, were approved by the Plan Commission in January. 

The Airbnb space will be located in what was the Stone Manor Bridal Store at 1218 12th Ave. The 6,000-sqaure-foot space will be converted into four short-term rental units and a shared common space. 

Plan Commission members said the Airbnb units were a good way to utilize empty commercial space and could draw guests that would support local businesses. 

Jeff Prochnow said considering his investments in remodeling the future Airbnb space, expected to open this summer, he is concerned the downstairs bar could pose a nuisance for guests. 

Boulanger said the bar, which is expected to have a capacity of 10 to 15, will be quieter than other taverns. 

“It’ll be a nice quite place patrons can relax and lounge. It will be very quiet,” he said. 

Boulanger noted that there will be no dart boards, pool tables or karaoke machines — just televisions and video gaming machines with volume that can be adjusted. 

“We’re going to have the same amount of noise as any other business in the area,” he said. 

Plan Commission member Dave Antoine asked if patrons watching sporting events might generate noise. 

Boulanger said it’s possible patrons may make noise but doubts it will pose a nuisance to the area or rental units above. 

Plan Commission member Brittany Hess said she has no qualms with the evening hours of the proposed bar but questioned why an establishment serving mostly alcohol would be opened so early in the morning. 

She said she is concerned about early morning noise for the Airbnb. 

“If I was staying in the Airbnb I think that could be an issue relating to noise starting at 8 a.m.,” she said. 

With concerns about noise and how the bar will fit into the character of Grafton’s downtown, Plan Commission member Heidi Ham said she has reservations about the proposal. 

“I don’t really see how that is conducive to the overall vision of the downtown Grafton area,” she said. 

Wolff suggested that a condition of the bar’s permit be that the gaming machines be silent, and noted that the Plan Commission would likely have to reference specific health or safety concerns to reject the proposal. 

“Bars are a conditional use downtown and there has to be very specific grounds for denying a conditional use under state statutes, legally,” she said. 

Plan Commission members questioned if concerns regarding noise and how the bar would fit into the downtown area would be grounds for rejecting the proposal. Wolff said she would need legal counsel’s advice to know for sure. 

Village President Jim Brunnquell said it would be helpful to the Plan Commission if some testing of whether or not the bar would generate noise audible to the Airbnb units could be done. That way, he said, there would be objective information to assist the Plan Commission in its decision. 

To allow for legal consideration and further exploration of the bar’s operations, the Plan Commission tabled action on the proposal until its March meeting.



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