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BUZZ Blog: Save the Amazing Grace (fence)!

Peter Passi and Brandon Stahl cover issues related to the city of Duluth. Follow BUZZ on Twitter. View the BUZZ Archives Save the Amazing Grace (fence)! So, this blog post comes with a bias: chocolate chips and brown sugar from the Amazing Grace ...

Peter Passi and Brandon Stahl cover issues related to the city of Duluth. Follow BUZZ on Twitter .

View the BUZZ Archives

Save the Amazing Grace (fence)!

So, this blog post comes with a bias: chocolate chips and brown sugar from the Amazing Grace blondie bars run through my blood. Yes, they are that good. And yes, if someone threatens to take them away, I'm pretty sure I'll get violent.

And so when someone threatens the Grace even in a slight way, my dander goes up. When I was there this weekend, customers were asked to sign a petition that wants to stop the city from taking down part of the Grace's fence for their outside seating area. The petitions were signed several pages long with people probably thinking the same thing I was: The evil city strikes again!

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Not really, actually. In fact, I think the Grace probably is in the wrong here.

As some background, that fence/seating area was basically put up to do away with the no-good-nicks that hung around in front of the restaurant from afternoon to late at nigh a few years back, making life miserable for business owners at the Dewitt-Seitz building. It was also put up as an alternative to the city's solution: steel bars on the planter area discouraging the kids from sitting there (which looked ugly).

The fenced area has since discouraged the no-good-nicks, but, said Ronnie Eastling, manager of the Amazing Grace, the city has asked the business to take the part of the fence down that faces Buchanan Street (which runs perpendicular to Lake Avenue) and is furthest away from the building, as well as move the entrance to the outdoor seating area that faces toward the DECC.

"And that would cost us thousands of dollars," she said.

Why does the city want it moved? The city apparently wants to allow people to sit on the planter area like they were able to before. Oh, and, one other thing.

"It's technically not our property so it needs to be public domain," Eastling said. "But we're just trying to eliminate the riff-raff."

While that fenced-off seating area has only been up for about a year, Eastling said in the 15 years the restaurant has been there it's been used for other business purposes and the city has never had a problem with it.

Why is the city bothering with it now? Duluth Land Use Supervisor Cindy Petkac said the Amazing Grace never bothered to get permits to use the area for outdoor seating. And yeah, she said, that is city property, so you need permits to get that done.

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She said that Amazing Grace will apparently go through the process of getting those permits approved by the city planning commission and city council, which won't be done until at least May. In the meantime, Petkac said as far as she knew Amazing Grace hadn't been asked to take anything down and has not been fined by the city building safety office.

As much as it pains me to say this, unless I've missed something, I'm falling on the side of the city here. I like the outdoor seating area that Amazing Grace has, but if it's city property, doesn't it make sense to make sure you have permission to put it together before you actually do it? 

Or is this a case of the city making life difficult on a business? 

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