Dayton bar has operated improperly for years, officials say

An East Dayton bar that for years has operated without the proper permit is trying to get zoning approval as a legal drinking establishment, according to city documents.

Since 2009, East Side Lounge at 2404 E. Third St. has not had a certificate of use and occupancy, which is required under Ohio building code, city officials said.

The property has a history with operating in violation of the law. In 2012, police raided the property, then called Club Expression, for lacking a liquor permit and certificate of occupancy.

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But the owner of East Side Lounge was unaware when she signed a lease for the space that it was out of compliance, said Jim Alt, managing partner at Alt Architecture Inc., who was hired by the owner.

“There was a degree of deception that occurred,” he said. “At that moment, it was functioning as and operating as a bar.”

April Sanders, the owner and operator of the East Side Lounge, has requested a use variance to establish an indoor restaurant at 2404 E. Third St.

Sanders originally applied to install and operate a commercial kitchen in the two-story building to serve home-style meals, according to a Board of Zoning Appeals staff report.

That’s when she learned the business lacked a permit it needs to lawfully operate, city officials said. Restaurants and dining are not permitted in the area, which is classified as a transitional zoning district.

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“Just to be clear, there really is no legal occupancy right now,” said Carl Daugherty, Dayton’s zoning administrator.

Since 1965, the building has been a restaurant and bar. It acquired legal non-conforming status when the city adopted a new zoning code in 2006, said Chidochashe Moyo, a city of Dayton planner.

But the building lost its legal non-conforming status in 2009, and since then it has not had a certificate of use and occupancy, Moyo said.

The property was raided by police in 2012 because it was operating as a club without a liquor license and the proper certificate, she said.

Dayton’s police drug unit confiscated a stolen gun and made an arrest during a search of the property, which at the time was operating as Club Expressions.

Police said the raid was prompted by a complaint that drugs were being sold out of the building. Moyo, however, said the property did obtain liquor permits in 2015 and 2017.

Sanders wants to continue operating the business as a bar and restaurant, as it has been used since the 1960s, said Alt.

Sanders eventually wants to install a commercial kitchen, but first and foremost she’s seeking approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals to operate legally as a bar establishment, Alt said.

The Northeast Land Use Board unanimously voted to recommend denial of the use variance. Board members said there were too many unanswered questions about the property and had concerns about parking.

City staff also recommended denial of Sanders’ variance request, saying they believed the amount of parking the property has or proposes to create was inadequate or inappropriate.

Sanders said she is in negotiations to buy a property across the street to use as parking for the bar and restaurant, which would provide 10 spaces. There’s seven spaces next to the business.

Sanders’ said she is willing to do what is necessary to satisfy the code and provide enough parking.

BZA members last week said they are concerned about the parking situation and need Sanders to submit a parking plan before they can make a decision about the variance.

The board continued the case to allow Sanders time to develop potential parking solutions.

“In concept, we’ve approved other lots like this for additional parking for business establishments,” said Tim Bement, board member. “I can’t approve this as submitted — it needs more work.”

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