By Jennifer Erickson | LB Indy
Mozambique restaurant shuttles 30 to 40 patrons a night between their homes and the establishment, eliminating drinking and driving concerns for customers and reducing its own parking needs.
Owner Ivan Spiers hopes the unusual service will make up for a lack of 27 parking spaces, required if the restaurant uses a first-floor dining area previously cordoned off to allow for a third-level roof top dining area. While the owners submitted a study equating the shuttle arrangement to 34 spaces, Municipal Code does not allow the substitution.
In the meantime, in order to avoid fines while the parking matter is on appeal, last month City Manager John Pietig issued a particularly strict compliance regimen. Until the City Council considers the matter next week, the management must, among other things, notify city staff in advance of any event that uses the contested floor space, as well as being subject to random inspections.
In a letter applying for a variance to address the problem, local architect Marshall Ininns said, “it is, and has always been, physically impossible to locate [the required amount] of parking spaces on the existing lot. Strict application of the parking requirements would render this building 50% unusable.”
Until Mozambique opened a 1,480 square foot rooftop deck in 2013, their 61 valet parking spaces and lease of 10 more spaces at a nearby property satisfied permit requirements. Approval was based on closing off a portion of the existing dining space equal in area to the deck, thereby maintaining the same ratio of floor area to parking spaces.
Mozambique subsequently sought permits to use more of their existing space, while still using the deck, based on the shuttle service.
The city’s code allows a reduction in parking requirements when alternate modes of transport, including vanpools, are provided, but only under specific conditions that Mozambique fails to meet.
The benefits of the shuttle arrangement, in step with practices favored by the city’s parking management plan, should override those conditions, Ininns said. Even so, the Planning Commission denied Mozambique’s request for a variance on Sept. 10. An appeal of the decision is scheduled for the Dec. 16 City Council meeting.
Despite the denial to reopen more of its existing space, Mozambique in recent weeks has begun stepping up their entertainment roster, beyond their usual line-up of area musicians, to provide a venue for touring acts, such as this Sunday’s ticketed concert with The Original Wailers. Concerts are staged in the second-level lounge.
“We think the timing [of the code enforcement] is unfortunate because this is the busiest month of the year,” said consultant Steve Kawaratani.
Pietig said he received several complaints from two or three residents about code violations at the restaurant. This prompted a letter to Spiers alleging the restaurant is operating outside of permitted conditions.
Spiers also attributed most of the complaints against him to two neighbors prone to various accusations, such as calling Mozambique a nightclub, a term he patently denies. “I serve 69 percent food and 31 percent liquor,” he said.
Rather than force a cancelation of upcoming events, Pietig suggested in his letter to Spiers that restaurant management notify city staff about what part of the existing approved dining area will be closed in order to offset use of the first-floor lounge, known as the Durban room. What’s more, staff will randomly visit the restaurant to verify compliance, the letter states.
Asked about the detailed level of enforcement, Pietig said the Mozambique situation “is somewhat unique,” but staff does sometimes “check up on businesses more frequently when there are complaints and sometimes when new conditions are imposed.”
“It is a nice accommodation by the city until this is resolved by the City Council,” said Ininns. “The parking code is antiquated and needs to be revised to adjust for the city not having parking lots,” he said.
At the meeting where Mozambique’s permit request was denied, commissioner Norm Grossman agreed that the parking code needs revision, but explained that it is up to the City Council “to provide that direction.”