Liquor license squabble bubbles over in Westlake
As a restaurateur, Jared Mannis prides himself on serving quality food in a relaxed, friendly environment.
But in recent months, Mannis said his attention has been drawn in another direction: Battling a neighborhood association for the right to serve hard alcohol.
Mannis, the general manager of Oliver's Stone Oven Grill in Westlake Village, is hoping to add hard drinks to his current selection of beer and wine.
Within several weeks, he will know whether the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will grant a 'full liquor' license.
If he receives the permit, it will be the culmination of a months-long battle with the chair of the Westlake Homeowners Associa-tion.
The HOA is just one of several in the area around Westlake Village, an upscale shopping center located just off Kruse Way.
But Mannis said the Westlake HOA has been the only one to oppose the new liquor license.
Mannis said the president of the association, Erin O'Rourke-Meadors, has tried to 'stir up' support against the full liquor license application by making what he feels are false claims about Oliver's.
Among those claims are that Mannis will convert the low-key bar area into a sports bar, and that he will install lottery machines.
Mannis said he has no plans for either.
'I have become fed up,' said Mannis, regarding the charges. 'I don't know why she is trying to attack our restaurant. Every-thing we're doing is legitimate.'
He said he began to draw criticism from O'Rourke-Meadors when he changed the restaurant's name from Pasto-Rico's to Oliver's Stone Oven Grill in March. He also made renovations inside, reconfiguring the restaurant to shield the waiting area from the bar.
In addition, Mannis continued the previous restaurant's 10-year practice of allowing patrons to sit in a patio area near the front entrance.
The city of Lake Oswego soon clamped down on Mannis, saying the patio seating was not allowed because it used space outside the enclosed area of the restaurant to serve food.
In response, Mannis asked patrons to sign a petition saying they enjoy the patio seating and want it back. So far, he has collected 500 signatures and given them to city officials.
In addition, the city said that a recent renovation in the restaurant requires a conditional use permit modification, because it enlarged the restaurant.
Mannis denies that he enlarged the restaurant, and says the renovation only reconfigured the inside. He added walls that he said 'add ambiance, but actually take away from the dining area's square footage.'
O'Rourke-Meadors said she and other members of the HOA do not trust Mannis' claims that he won't extend hours or add lottery. Her chief concern is that the restaurant could endanger nearby residents' safety by serving hard alcohol.
'It's not appropriate for a neighborhood setting,' she said, referring to serving hard alcohol. 'It's contrary to the expectations of people living in a residential neighborhood and the use of the surrounding area.'
In general, she said the restaurant is 'becoming more bar oriented and less restaurant oriented.'
Mannis said the restaurant is much larger than the bar and his main focus is in food sales.
But, Mannis said, if he receives the hard liquor license, he won't operate longer hours or put anyone's safety in the neighborhood in jeopardy. He won't extend summer hours beyond the 11 p.m. closing time, or extend the winter closing time of 10 p.m.
'If people want to go and heavily drink, they can go somewhere else,' he said.
For its part, the city of Lake Oswego elected not to give a recommendation to OLCC to grant the hard liquor permit.
Mannis said he feels the city has singled out his business for code requirements that he has not broken.
'This is the city in which I live and work,' he said. 'I don't want to dislike city hall.'
Lake Oswego City Manager Douglas Schmitz said the city did not recommend approval of the hard liquor license to the OLCC because of the outstanding land-use issues.
He said OLCC could approve the hard liquor license, regardless of the city's non-endorsement.
If he does get his hard liquor permit, Mannis said the neighbors won't notice any changes.
'Everything we do is something I'm proud of,' he said. 'You can find here a great selection of food and wine and a nice ambiance. We're a restaurant that feeds the community and its families.'