A temporary vestibule on the sidewalk in front of downtown Delaware’s 12 West restaurant will remain in place for another six months.
The ruling was made by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday after more than an hour of discussion.
The commission had ruled that the Mexican restaurant could install the vestibule last October as a pilot test case for the winter months. The permit deadline had passed at the end of March, and 12 West had to reapply for the temporary license. Restaurant owners were also hoping to make the vestibule a permanent feature.
However, the vestibule is on a city sidewalk, and is therefore temporary and subject to removal if requested. City staff told the commission that features such as outdoor patios can cause blockages in foot traffic on the sidewalks during busy events. In addition, if such features are designated as permanent, they can limit funding for state and federal road projects.
“That vestibule has been an asset,” owner David DiStefano said to the commission. “It’s made a big difference on the customer experience, helped us maintain a level of service we need. We average about 1,000 people a week coming through our doors. There was not one complaint, and we’ve had numerous compliments.”
DiStefano said that after the adjacent building at 14 W. William St. was demolished, there has been increased wind that would blow into the 40-seat restaurant whenever the door was opened. The vestibule has not only cut down on the wind, it has lowered heating bills and kept patrons out of the rain.
“We’re inheriting these old buildings,” said business partner Ron Criswell. “We’re doing what we need to do.”
In the summer months, the vestibule door would be removed.
Commission members said that while they liked the look of the restaurant exterior, they expressed concerns about setting a precedent where other businesses that lacked an interior vestibule would want a temporary one of their own, and how that might affect the historic district. There was discussion on limiting the vestibules to restaurants of a certain size and outside of the historic core area.
In the end, the commission agreed that 12 West could keep the vestibule up through October before having to either take it down or ask for another extension. “We’ll see you in another six months,” DiStefano said.
Another request by 12 West was also approved by the commission — adding a fire-rated door to the south side of the structure.
“Thank you for your attention to this building,” said commission chairman Roger Koch.
The commission also voted to keep Koch as chairman, and Mark Hatten as vice chairman. There was also discussion on illegal signage, as well as the use of sandwich boards.
At its previous meeting on March 23, the commission approved facade improvements at 4 N. Sandusky St./5 E. William St., as well as at 6 N. Sandusky St.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.