OCURA voted Sept. 19 to table a vote on plans by developer Randy Hogan for a restaurant along the Bricktown canal just west of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill and east of Earl’s Rib Palace after board members expressed concern about the restaurant’s entrance not facing the canal.
During the meeting, architect Jason Wint of Rees Associates said designers had addressed previous worries that customers on the patio of Earl’s would be able to see air conditioning units atop the new building. He said that parapets placing the AC units away from the rooftop’s edge would keep them out of view.
But a new sticking point has arisen.
Hogan said the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, which plans to lease the future building, is concerned about having two entrances. Toby Keith’s, which is also operated by Hal Smith, once had two entrances, but the canal-side entryway was eliminated after problems with line-jumping by people coming in from the north.
Hogan said the entryway for the new restaurant would be more convenient if it were on the south side, facing the parking lot, to prevent line jumping and people walking out on their bill.
OCURA board member Jim Tolbert balked that having the entryway on the opposite side of the canal would be a “mistake” and go against the whole purpose of development along the canal.
“We didn’t start out to build storefronts on a parking lot,” Tolbert said.
“We started out to build an enterprise that faced the canal and we’ve gotten a little away from that with some of the things you’ve done, and I think this one just compounds it. I find it very difficult to be supportive of that.”
Tolbert suggested that the restaurant could solve the problem by hiring someone to mind the canal-side entryway.
“We’re ignoring the concept we had when we built the canal, which was to have continual interaction and open faces to the public on the canal,” he said.
“We’re making the canal more sterile with this process.”
Hogan said that it would possibly affect the planned patio on the canal side to put an entryway there. To have the main entrance facing the canal would create asymmetry with the entryway for the neighboring Toby Keith’s, he argued, and it would point the back of the building toward the parking lot and future downtown boulevard.
The board voted unanimously to table the item until its October meeting, and asked Hogan to return with plans addressing the entryway issue.
Hogan said the delay is likely to delay construction by at least a month.