Monuts Restaurant, Bakery and Bar got the go-ahead this week to add outdoor seating at its location in Old West Durham, as long as it doesn’t stay open outdoors too late.
“This new use of that spot is changing some things we were accustomed to,” said David Jolly, who lives right behind the restaurant and brought his concerns to the Durham Planning Commission.
Last fall, Monuts leased the building formerly occupied by Magnolia Grill at Ninth and Knox streets. The building, though, said designer Ron Horvath, needs an emergency exit on its north side.
“Unique piece of property,” Horvath said. The building, constructed in 1928 as a neighborhood grocery store, sits just one foot from its northern property line, leaving no room for the exit without going into the adjoining lot, which is zoned for residential use.
The building owners also own that lot, but to use it for the exit they need a zoning change, Horvath said – thus the requisite hearing by the planning commission.
If that lot was going to be used for the exit, “We realized it would also make a very good outdoor seating-waiting area,” he said – thus, the neighbor’s concerns.
Currently, Monuts closes at 9 p.m., but, “I don’t know that there’s anything to prevent them from staying open until 2 in the morning,” Jolly said.
As part of the rezoning, the owners commit to banning live music outside, but the planned seating can accommodate up to 50 people.
“This is a residential neighborhood,” Jolly said. “They serve alcohol. ... There could be some loud and rowdy people out there,” Jolly said.
Noise has been an issue at other neighborhood-adjoining eating-drinking establishments, and Planning Commissioner Tom Miller asked Horvath if his clients would agree to close the outdoor seating at 9 p.m. No one from Monuts was on hand and Horvath said he alone could not commit to 9 – but he was comfortable offering 10 p.m. as closing time outdoors, though not for the restaurant itself.
“I may be able to drop it back to 9,” he said.
“I appreciate the 10 p.m. noise limit,” Commissioner Brian Buzby said. “I hope it’s 9 p.m. because you do see the residential area – it’s composed of young families, (and) the difference between 9 and 10 p.m. is significant.”
“For us old guys, too,” Horvath said.
“That’s true as well,” said Buzby. And with that, the commissioners voted in the rezoning’s favor. It still requires formal approval by the City Council before Monuts can move ahead.