City council approves permit for comedy club

COVINGTON - The Covington City Council has approved a special-use permit for a comedy club and restaurant on Washington Street.

The approval came after much back and forth between applicant Jimmy Clark Jr. and the Planning and Zoning Department.

Ultimately, the petition was approved with multiple conditions, including the requirement that Clark reapply in two years.

Clark said he intends to open the first week in July, and hopes to make the business a "city and county landmark for entertainment."

The club, which will seat 215, will be located in a small retail complex at 3192 Washington St.

Clark initially came before the City Council in February, when he said he was misled by city employees and was trying to find a way to keep his business venture alive.

Clark said he initially met with an employee in the Building and Zoning Department who advised him the use was allowed, and he proceeded to meet with city inspectors, the fire department and environmental health to get information on code requirements.

Clark said that he was not aware that he needed a demolition permit before beginning interior remodeling.

When a building inspector discovered renovations were in progress, a stop work order was issued.

Planning and Development Director Shelley Stiebling then informed Clark that a comedy club/restaurant is not allowed in a Community Commercial (CC) District.

Clark's property has a dual zoning. The shopping center facing Washington Street, where the club and restaurant would be located, is zoned CC.

The rear of the property, facing Webster Street, contains a mini-warehouse complex and is zoned Highway Commercial (HC).

While a comedy club/restaurant would be allowed in the HC district, it is not permitted in the CC district, Stiebling said.

The rear portion of the property was rezoned to Highway Commercial in 1984 to accommodate a nursery, and after it went out of business, the warehouses were allowed as a permitted use.

Stiebling said the Highway Commercial designation constitutes "spot zoning," as the property is surrounded by single-family residential and residential professional districts.

After his conversation with Stiebling, Clark said he applied for a special-use petition to be allowed in the district.

In a memo to the Planning Commission dated Dec. 13, Stiebling acknowledged that staff had "verbally approved the use."

"The decision by the staff for approving this use was in error based on the ordinance that is approved by Mayor and Council," she said.

Permitted uses in the CC district include places of public assembly, such as clubs, fraternal organizations, churches, synagogues, mosques or other places of worship and educational buildings.

Stiebling said a comedy club doesn't fit with the other allowed uses, which she described as "nonprofit organizations that are conducting organized group activities."

If Clark did not serve alcohol and food, the business would be allowed as a matter of right as a theater, which is a permitted use in the CC District, City Attorney Ed Crudup said.

Clark instead applied for a rezoning to Highway Commercial, but then worked out a compromise special-use petition with the city that includes a condition that he reapply for the permit in two years to "see if the business is acknowledging its commitment to the neighbors and the neighborhood," according to a staff report by Stiebling.

Other conditions included meeting all parking requirements of the zoning ordinance; prohibiting on-street parking on Washington, Webster and Carroll streets; using valet parking; prohibiting outdoor speakers and spotlights and outdoor events; and inspection of the interior by the building inspector before work continues on alterations.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.