Downtown Delaware is vibrant with restaurants and drinking establishments, but it comes at a price for some business owners.
“It’s difficult to drunk-proof downtown,” said Mark Hatten, vice chairman of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
Chris Schobert experienced that reality from a series of vandalism-like incidents at his business, Olivina Taproom, 44 S. Sandusky St., over the past few months. The Lewis Center resident opened the establishment last fall, selling premium olive oils, vinegars and related accessories.
Several bars are in the vicinity of Olivina Taproom.
The front corner of the building’s inset entrance, which consists of the entry ways for Schobert’s business and to a second-floor apartment, has been abused as a restroom and trash receptacle.
Schobert said he has found beer bottles, vomit and “all other kinds of fun stuff” within the building’s alcove. Other prior businesses at that spot have made similar complaints, he added.
“We’ve done all of the things we thought were going to help: cameras, lighting — you name it. We’ve tried minus you know maybe electrical shock,” he said at commission’s Wednesday meeting.
Schobert said prior businesses at the building have voiced similar complaints. He presented a design, for an informal review from the commission, of a 4-foot-six-inch iron gate to prevent further abuse of the alcove.
“We just wanted to prevent any further issue in a way that protects not only our storefront but the investments we made in it,” he said.
But because of public safety and code requirements, the gate would be a costly and pointless venture, some commission members said.
“The gate will not solve the problem,” said Roger Koch, chairman of the commission.
He recommended the apartment’s door be relocated to a new wall built along the alcove, which would be adjacent to the taproom’s entrance.
That recommendation would be half the cost of the iron gate and more effective, he said.
The city’s architectural standards appear to not address gated features on buildings. There are two lockable iron gates in the downtown area, both of which were installed before the commission was formed about 20 years ago. One is a private alley gate between 5 and 9 E. William St., and the other is a private entrance for apartments above 24 to 26 N. Sandusky St.
Hatten said the commission does not want to set a “moral precedent” if it allowed the gate because other downtown businesses could make a similar request.
Prior to the meeting, the city made recommendations, aside from Koch’s. But those were not agreeable for all parties, including the tenant and property owner Scott Atway, neither of whom were at the meeting.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.