Patrick Neary, the owner of Wildwood Restaurant and partner in Bien Trucha and A Toda Madre, told the City Council Committee of the Whole on Monday night that he and other restaurant owners want to open up some kind of dialogue with the city to iron out what he called "conspiratorial" code enforcement.
"What I’m here to tell you is that this is not a way to do business," Neary said during the public-comment portion of the meeting.
Neary said he and the other owners of Bien Trucha had been trying for two years to get permission for an outdoor, roped-in patio area where patrons could be served drinks mixed by hand.
He said he was called recently to the restaurant when it was visited simultaneously by representatives of the Geneva Police Department, Geneva Fire Department and Kane County Health Department. He said he received a letter from the Fire Department "last Friday" that required him to submit a plan to the Building Department by Monday or face "suspension and revocation of outdoor seating."
"I don’t know why that happened. It’s incredulous to me," he said.City Administrator Mary McKittrick told the Committee of the Whole: "There’s much more to the story" than what Neary was describing.
McKittrick said the restaurant had been issued an outdoor seating license "subject to an inspection being done and approval being given." She also said officials had talked to Bien Trucha’s staff "personally, one-on-one" and on several occasions about the city's requirements.
"We will not look the other way and pretend a code is not on the books," she said. "We have a fiduciary duty to enforce those codes."
Neary said his purpose was not to surprise the City Council members by bringing the issue up at a public meeting, but he hoped that restaurant owners might band together to form a Geneva restaurant association and begin discussions with city elected officials and staff.
"I do think it’s very important for you to hear that the owner/operators need to engage with this group (the City Council) or another subset of this group," he said. "Geneva is known as a dining community. Many of us believe that cannot continue without looking at how the city and chamber supports us."
McKittrick said the city would welcome that dialogue, as well. She suggested a meeting between the restaurant owners and representatives of the various city departments.
"This is a long and storied situation that is probably more complicated than we can solve at this meeting," she said. "... Being inflexible is not what we want to be."