Evanston residents contest renewal of Las Palmas’ sidewalk cafe permit

Brittney Wong

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Patrons of Las Palmas, a Mexican restaurant at 817 University Place, will be able to dine outdoors this summer after the Evanston City Council renewed a controversial sidewalk cafe permit Monday night.

Restaurant Manager Placido Quintero will set up three tables outside his restaurant under the same scheduling regulations as last year-serving customers until 8 p.m. on weeknights and 9 p.m. during the weekend.

Last year the council approved the cafe for one year on a trial basis because of the possible negative effect the outdoor eating area could have on the restaurant’s next-door neighbor, Sherman Gardens, a condominium at 1860 Sherman Ave.

When the council returned to the issue again Monday, residents complained the noise coming from the cafe was invasive and the cafe’s presence could lower Sherman Garden’s property values.

Diane Petersmarck, who lives on the ground floor of the condominium, says she’s accustomed to normal downtown noise, but conversation from the cafe is uniquely “horrible.”

“This is different, and I don’t know how I can make you people understand,” Petersmarck said.

She said she works in a room in her apartment that is 8 feet away from the cafe, and finds the noise intolerable.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) spoke during the Planning and Development Committee meeting in favor of the Sherman Garden residents who are affected by the cafe.

“Some of them work from home,” she said. “The smell and the noise from the outdoor cafe is a problem for them.”

Earlier, the committee received comments from residents and debated the issue, eventually approving the tables as long as Quintero explores other options during the summer. Specifically, committee members asked him to consider moving the sidewalk cafe to the west side of the building. The move would take up two parking spaces, which Quintero said would be too costly a sacrifice for his 11-spot lot.

The committee asked him to sit down with the manager of nearby First Bank and Trust by October to see if using the bank’s parking spaces is possible at night, after the bank closes.

Quintero said he is pushing for the cafe to stimulate business after Northwestern students-30 percent of his patronage-leave for the summer. Supporters of Las Palmas said the restaurant needs the outdoor area to compete with businesses nearby.

“In the city of Chicago, as I walk down the street, I have the option to patronize any of those restaurants, and they all have an outdoor cafe,” said Charles Young, a Chicago resident who chooses to come to Las Palmas for its service. “Why can’t we have the opportunity to have that in Evanston as well for this particular restaurant?”

The next city council meeting will be a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. onMay 17 at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.bwong@u.northwestern.edu