Members of the Van Buren City Council approved Monday night an application for a private club permit for a downtown business.
Council members voted 5-1 to allow the private club permit for Larry B’s Rhythm Room featuring Hazel’s Gourmet Chicken and Waffles at 719 Main St. to go before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division in Little Rock.
Alan Swaim, Tyler Wood, Jim Petty, David Moore and Mike Kneeland voted for the ordinance. Darral Sparkman cast the lone negative vote.
Larry and Hazel Bedell are to finalize on Friday the purchase of the business which currently houses Oliver’s Kitchen. Sister’s Gourmet Restaurant, which became the first business to obtain a private club license in Crawford County in 2007, was formerly at the location.
Larry Bedell said he hopes to open in February to offer “fine dining, music and dancing.”
Mayor Bob Freeman said the council approval is required following a July change in the state law.
“It will be the same process with the ABC,” he said, “but, businesses have to come before the council first.”
Wood said the private club will be a benefit to the community and the other downtown merchants.
Swaim, who made the motion to approve the ordinance, said the venue will keep the momentum going in the downtown revitalization effort.
Rusty Myers, board president for Van Buren Original, said VBO was pleased that the request was approved by the city council to allow a prospective new restaurant on Main Street to apply to the state for private club status.
“It allows the business the same privilege that other businesses in Van Buren have had, and, if approved, will permit it to offer its customers optional dining choices,” Myers said. “If our community is to advance culturally and economically, this is important. I applaud our city for its forward thinking.”
Hazel Bedell said Larry B’s Rhythm Room will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will be closed on Sunday and Monday.
Larry Bedell said the five-star restaurant will bring people, culture and diversity to downtown.
“Also, this will be a great benefit to our fellow merchants on Main Street and beyond,” Bedell said. “My wife and I moved to Van Buren from Fort Smith a year ago and we are proud to be part of this great community.”
He said the evening dining experience also will generate more revenue for the community.
“It will be an honor to open up in this historical city of downtown Van Buren that will reach those beyond our city limits,” Bedell said. “We truly feel this is the time.”
Also, council members voted 6-0 to allow for a planning commission variance from regulations approved in 2015 which require the construction of sidewalks in new residential, commercial and industrial construction.
The new ordinance allows developers to pay a fee-in-lieu of sidewalk construction. Freeman said the fee will go into a sidewalk construction fund.
City Planner Joe Hurst said the fee will be the actual dollar value of the required sidewalks.
Hurst said donations to the sidewalk construction fund may be accepted if the required sidewalks are along an existing street that has no sidewalk network or where the planning department determines the construction of a sidewalk is not feasible.
The fees will ensure that sidewalks are built where needed, Hurst said.
The dollar value of the sidewalk improvements will be determined by the project engineer and approved by the planning department.
The council also voted 6-0 to:
• Approve a $100 Christmas bonus for all full-time, non-elected city employees who have at least one year of service.
• Reschedule next month’s meeting for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 18 since the fourth Monday falls on Christmas Day.
• Set a meeting to discuss the 2018 budget for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4.
• Sell by sealed bids two 2008 Ford Crown Victoria sedans, one 2009 Ford Crown Victoria sedan, one speed monitor, four radar units, two mobile video systems and one DVD publisher, all used by the police department, and a 2008 Dodge Durango used by the fire department.
Freeman said police department vehicles with equipment, which have been replaced by 2017 Chevrolet Tahoes, will be sold by sealed bids. The Durango will be used as a trade-in for a new fire department vehicle from Breeden Dodge.