Order to close Carmel tavern by 2 p.m. caught councilors by surprise 

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When the City of Carmel’s legal department sent a letter to the owner of The GOAT tavern on Dec. 8 ordering the establishment to close by 2 p.m. each day, perhaps no one was more surprised than a couple members of the city council.

Just a few hours earlier, at-large city councilors Kevin “Woody” Rider and Jeff Worrell had met with Kevin Paul, owner of The GOAT, to discuss complaints about the tavern and agree on a list of commitments Paul must follow to prove the business could be a good neighbor. Only then would they consider approving a rezone for the property to allow The GOAT to legally operate there with extended hours.

Rider said he alerted the mayor’s office about the meeting and commitments before the city sent the noncompliance order to Paul, so the swift reversal in strategy caught Rider by surprise.

“If we were going to take this type of action, why didn’t we take it five months ago?” Rider said. “I think the timing was odd.”

An oversight by the city’s planning department allowed the tavern to open in a residentially zoned site that previously housed Bub’s Cafe, which had received a variance to operate a restaurant there only between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. The variance and its restrictions transferred to The GOAT, but city planners missed the limitation on its hours when approving plans for the tavern.

Since The GOAT opened in mid-August, neighbors have complained about loud noise until 3 a.m. or later, blocked driveways, urination and other nuisances on adjacent private property. The city council passed an ordinance Dec. 7 that assesses fines for public urination, and it is considering amendments to its noise ordinance to address complaints generated by The GOAT.

As recently as the Dec. 7 city council meeting, Mayor Jim Brainard said the city was working on several changes to “make (The GOAT) compatible with other businesses that are operating under the same rules successfully without complaint in that neighborhood.”

But in a press release sent out the following day, the city stated that despite numerous meetings with Paul, problems and complaints persisted. That led to the decision to enforce the existing variance before a rezone or new variance was approved.

Brainard stated in a Dec. 9 email that he was encouraged to hear that Paul had verbally agreed to commitments but that the process needed to be formalized.

“Those commitments still need to be drafted and put into writing so the Board of Zoning Appeals knows exactly what they are and aren’t,” he stated. “The commitments also need to be in writing so they can be reviewed by the city’s attorneys to make certain they are enforceable, and they need to be in writing so they can be made available to members of the public to comment on them at a publicly noticed hearing.”

Paul described the commitments he discussed with Rider and Worrell — which include closing and clearing the space at 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnights on weekends — as “a big pill to swallow” but was willing to accept them. He said he was disappointed to receive the order to operate only between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. but that he will abide by it until he is legally allowed to alter The GOAT’s hours.

“Whatever they think is right and best and most expeditious is absolutely what we’re going to do,” Paul said. “I’m not going to fight anything. I haven’t tried to fight anything from the beginning.”

Worrell said he had hoped to reach a solution that didn’t involve such a drastic change in The GOAT’s operations and that the commitments he discussed with Paul will now likely be attached to a new variance yet to be proposed for the property. Any new variance will be reviewed by the BZA, which typically meets the fourth Monday of the month.

The Carmel Plan Commission is set to discuss a rezone of The GOAT and the property to the north from residential to mixed-use at its Dec. 15 meeting.

Paul said he plans to keep The GOAT open during lunch until he is able to expand his hours. He said he plans to support his employees through the changes and provide continuity for patrons until a long-term solution can be reached.

Paul has already taken several steps to address the complaints, such as installing a fence and hiring security during busy hours, but he acknowledged that the changes may not have been “fast enough” or “impactful enough.” He acknowledged that he and the city have made mistakes that led to the current situation and that he is willing to make major changes to allow The GOAT to peacefully coexist with its neighbors.

“We were just all human. We’re all trying to figure it out and certainly respect everyone’s property,” Paul said. “However we can make it better, we’ll definitely do it.”

The commitments

During a Dec. 8 meeting with city councilors Kevin “Woody” Rider and Jeff Worrell, The GOAT owner Kevin Paul agreed to the following commitments:

  • Restrict hours to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends. Facility completely closed at that time.
  • Follow the new noise ordinance at 50 decibels.
  • Do not allow entrance from the Monon to the sandlot. One entry/exit at the front door only.
  • Close firepit and the entire outdoor area and do not allow entry. Until there is a variance or rezone, sandlot closed during operation. If a variance is approved, sandlot to close nightly at 11 p.m.
  • Full-time bouncer at front door (only door) must restrict any drinks from leaving the premises, must card all patrons, must clear the building at closing.
  • Limit capacity to 46 patrons inside and 43 on three-seasons porch.
  • Build new restroom facility that could (per city planning department input and further discussion) be on the Monon side of the sandlot that would provide a sound and visual barrier. No increase in capacity or use of sandlot without permanent restroom facility.
  • Must install a hose to clean surrounding area and be responsible for all trash and receptacles in the three-block surrounding area.
  • Continue to provide security for perimeter
  • Promote and support Uber pickup in the garage instead of on the neighborhood streets. Bouncer does not allow pickup.

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