Double the tables, double the donations
Temporary tent to be used for dining, continued fundraising efforts

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Staff

March 8, 2018

The temporary tent at the Stilt House in Cedarburg was up for about a month last fall.
Submitted image

CEDARBURG — Many of Cedarburg’s historic buildings are beautiful, but they aren’t necessarily functional for modern uses. Such is the case with the Stilt House building, W62 N630 Washington Ave., which hasn’t exactly been cooperative with restaurateur Gordon Goggin. “I’ve exhausted every idea possible to put a sprinkler system on the second floor,” he said, noting that is a requirement stopping the restaurant from expanding upward. “Outside, I’ve looked into putting an outdoor TV on the north wall and it’s not even structurally sound enough to do that.”

That, and the fact that his landlord owns only the 8 feet north of the building, have also stopped any thought of adding on an additional structure to that side of the building as well.

Goggin was back before the Cedarburg Plan Commission Monday requesting a temporary use permit to re-erect a tent used last year on the north side of the building to extend the outdoor dining season. Last year, Goggin received approval after the fact to keep the tent up, and was required to go before the Plan Commission due to the planned six-week duration it would be in place.

City Planner Jon Censky noted that requests for 14 days or less can be approved at the staff level.

The matter had been brought up at a previous meeting, but Goggin was not able to attend, so it was tabled. He was making the request in part so that the Stilt House could host charitable events for the community, in which charities receive the net profits from designated nights.

“Last year, we donated almost $100,000 to charity,” he said, noting that the restaurant already had an event booked to support Thorson Elementary School and was in talks with a handful of other charities for additional dates. “If I can double my tables, they can double their donation.”

Some Plan Commissioners questioned the intent of the tent, if it was meant specifically for charitable events or if it was more of a business decision.

“Is it used for regular dining? How often was it full (last year)?” asked Commissioner Daniel von Bargen.

“Last year, we had the tent up until the end of September into October,” he said. “Of the 28 days the tent was up, we probably had 12 days where it was being really used. The other times, it was maybe one table a night by someone who really wanted to sit outside.”

The cost of the tent is another reason why Goggin was asking for the six-week permit.

“It costs $2,200 to rent the tent for six weeks, and it really doesn’t get much cheaper to rent it for a week,” he said. “We’re trying to recoup that cost and still have money to donate to these charities.”

When the matter was tabled at the previous meeting, some commissioners had raised concerns about allowing temporary structures in the historic downtown area, which Commissioner Heather Cain readdressed.

“It’s certainly wonderful that you are supportive of these charities,” she said. “But there is so much discussion about the buildings and their components in the downtown area. I don’t see how a tent – as nice as it may be – necessarily benefits the downtown area. This tent is for your business; I’m concerned with it being precedent setting … with more businesses wanting to pitch a tent during the winter months to increase their revenue.”

“When downtown businesses want to increase their business, I don’t want to stand in their way,” said Commissioner John Czarnecki. “If he wants to increase his business, that’s good for Cedarburg. We should be helping them, not hindering them.”

Mayor Kip Kinzel also noted that what Goggin was requesting is also permitted in the downtown district, but due to the fact that it exceeded 14 days, it was a matter that had to be approved by the Plan Commission.

“(This type of request) has to come before us every time,” he noted. “Let’s address that problem if additional requests come forward.”

Czarnecki made a motion to approve the permit, but also required Goggin to move the tent as far back as possible on the property from the sidewalk. Goggin was amenable to this, but also noted that a series of power lines that run over the driveway may limit this somewhat.

The matter passed 4-1, with Cain in opposition and Commissioner Greg Zimmerschied abstaining, as he had visited Goggin’s new restaurant, Toast, over the weekend as part of a “friends and family” event.