Columbus Council today unanimously approved a zoning variance that would allow a restaurant to open at the corner of Seventh Street and Third Avenue in the Historic District, the site of the former Café 222.
The variance was sought by Mike Milligan, who said after the vote that he is not 100 percent sure he will go forward with plans he had described earlier. Last year, he’d said he planned to open a restaurant called Christopher’s, a nod to Christopher Columbus. Milligan, a partner in the company that owns 19 Piggly-Wiggly stores, would partner with his son Tommy in the restaurant venture if it opens.
Café 222 operated previously as a restaurant and food service provider for the near-by Rothschild-Pound House bed and breakfast. The Milligans bought the property last year from Garry and Mamie Pound, owners of the bed and breakfast.
The building has undergone some renovation and the signs proclaiming its new name were already on the building before council voted on the variance.
One Historic District resident spoke against the council resolution, saying a restaurant would cause parking, litter, noise and other problems for the district. The resident, Susan Weigl, also said it would open the door for others to open restaurants in inappropriate parts of the district.
“This is not a personal issue for me. I don’t even know Mr. Milligan. I would not be in favor of this charge regardless of the person seeing the change,” Weigl said. “But it is personal for me. It’s personal for my block and it’s personal about my neighborhood.”
At one point in her presentation to council, Weigl suggested that the decision had been made behind closed doors.
“Unfortunately I fear that your decision regarding this special exception has already been made. But I’m still hopeful about the process, and I’m hopeful that council will make the right decision about the use of a building based on its particular location and its impact on the surrounding properties and people.”
Before council voted, Councilor Skip Henderson assured Weigl that council had not been unduly influenced nor had they made any decision prior to today’s public hearing.
“None of these decisions are made in private,” Henderson said.
Mike Milligan said if he does go forward with a restaurant, he is not sure what kind of cuisine it would serve. For now, he said he is exploring possibilities that the district residents would approve of.
“I’m excited that we can move forward now, but we want to come up with something that the neighborhood will embrace,” Milligan said. “I live around the corner from it, so that’s what is most important to me, that the district will accept it and embrace it.”
The vote to approve the variance was unanimous, but Councilor Mimi Woodson, who represents the Historic District, was absent from today’s meeting.