Bistro Basque outdoor patio approved downtown

With lots of praise for a local restaurant owner, the Board of Aldermen Monday night approved the lease of city property for a new outdoor patio downtown.

Last month the aldermen tabled a vote on the new outdoor patio because they said they couldn’t visualize what the patio would look like and were concerned it might be too big.

David Fernandez, the owner of Bistro Basque at 13 River St. and El Barrio Latin Bar & Kitchen at 17 River St., provided the aldermen with more detailed plans and won them over Monday night, when they voted unanimously to lease him patio space. This makes him the third downtown restaurant owner to have a patio on city-owned land at 25-27 River St., where there is already an outdoor patio that serves Café Atlantique and one that serves Eli’s Tavern.

The city owns the small green area on River Street and leases part of it to Café Atlantique and Eli’s: The Café Atlantique patio is actually a public patio on city land, while Eli’s is a private patio on city land. Fernandez received approval for a private patio on city land, similar to Eli’s arrangement. The lease conditions will be the same, city officials said: Eli’s pays $2,500 a year for the lease, smoking is not allowed, it must close by 10 p.m. and there can be no live music there.

The patio will be adjacent to the one for Eli’s Tavern and will be accessed from the existing rear patio for Bistro Basque.

Mayor Ben Blake said Fernandez got the surrounding businesses to approve his plan before approaching the city to ask permission, and that’s why the request moved more quickly than did Eli’s, which took more than a year.

The proposed patio is not a square or rectangle but rather a more elaborate shape because of the grading and the desire to avoid cutting mature trees on the property. The proposed patio “zig zags” around the trees, Blake said.

When they approved the patio Monday night, several aldermen praised Fernandez for the style of his downtown restaurants and said they are confident he will build a beautiful patio.

Even former alderman Bill Bevan, who spoke last month against leasing the space, attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the lease agreement during the public speaking portion of the meeting.

Bevan noted that Fernandez scaled down the size from his original plans, and said, “It’s going to be a spectacular little thing. It will be something that downtown will be proud to see.”

Alderman Nick Veccherelli, who questioned the size of the patio last month, said he too is pleased with the plans. “This deck looks very appropriate, very fitting,” he said. “I feel that this would make a nice add-on to that area and still leave us some open space. It works in harmony with the other two decks.”

Aldermen Dan German and Anthony Giannattasio praised the plans too. “I’m truly excited about this patio because I know you have an eye for design,” Giannattasio said. “And I’m happy you’re using wood on the deck. There’s a lot of concrete there and this will soften it up.”

Fernandez predicts there will be 10 to 15 tables on the deck, small tables that seat two people but which can be put together to seat four.