Wall St. Café wants to host spoken word performances, singers, bands, karaoke and game nights at its West Washington Street location in an expansion of its operations. To do so, owners are seeking a conditional use permit to add live entertainment.
Even as similar concerns were raised about noise coming from inside the business, and crime coming from the outside, the Planning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval following a June 21 public hearing. Commissioner Anita Hicks was absent from the meeting.
City Council is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on the request at its July 20 meeting.
Similar to other recent conditional use permit applications that have been put forth in recent weeks from downtown restaurants, Wall St. Café received a notice of violation March 9 and shortly after, filed a permit request to come into compliance.
Domenick Epps, co-owner of Wall St. Café at 118 W. Washington St. with Danita Hayes, said he understood the way the ordinance reads about having to classify the business as a nightclub in order to host live entertainment, but wanted to assure commissioners and the public that there are no plans for an actual nightclub there.
Rather, he compared his business to “your version of a Starbucks,” but it wants to host special events such as open mic nights and karaoke. With current hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., he said it would not seek to have any entertainment on weekends after 11 p.m. and would only open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. for special events that have live entertainment.
Should council approve Epps’ permit request, Wall St. Café’s West Washington Street location would be allowed to host live entertainment from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. That location opened in October 2020, and a second location opened in May at 347 N. Main St.
Manoj Khubani, who owns the property next door to Wall St. Café’s on West Washington Street, said he is opposed to its request for a conditional use permit, citing concerns about alcohol, drug use and violence in the area.
Sue Woodward, a downtown resident who said she takes exception to the idea that residents there should expect noise, said she was encouraged by what Epps said of the café’s plans for entertainment, but she still had concerns about increased noise.
“As you consider these things, I feel like everybody in this city has a right to some peace and quiet no matter where they live,” Woodward said. “How many nightclubs do you want across the street from you, or in your neighborhood?”
Epps, in responding to the concerns, stressed that his business is not in any way similar to a nightclub and plans to limit its entertainment to indoors on weekends only on the ground floor. In response to Khubani, Epps said there is no illegal drug use at his business.
“We do not have a nightclub,” Epps said. “This is not a lounge. This is not a dance hall. There’s no dance floor. This is basically for artists to be able to come in and entertain our guests.”
He said his business is trying to bring something for people living and working downtown to be excited about.
“We’re just looking forward to adding something to downtown Suffolk,” Epps said.