BOWLING GREEN - The Uptown Downtown wants to give its patrons a place to light up and drink a cold beer outside this summer, but a legal glitch dating to 1880 is holding up its plans.
The bar went to court this week to try to get a quit claim deed issued to the city in 2001 thrown out because it is based on what the bar contends is a bogus deed from 1880.
"We approached the city and said here's what we'd like to do [with the patio] and they said this fits in with the downtown concept," said Max Rayle, a local attorney who represents Uptown Downtown Inc.
The city said it could not approve the bar's plans for an enclosed patio, though, because when the city obtained title to the 12-foot-by-181-foot strip behind the bar and adjacent business, next-door property owner Agnes Hillard included a restriction stating that the property "must remain open and available for public use access and enjoyment in its entirety" and specifically prohibiting "construction of any building, deck or patio."
The problem, Mr. Rayle said, is that Mrs. Hillard had no authority to ask for the restriction. The deed for the strip of property was issued in 1880 to a man who, by county records, didn't own the property at the time. That makes it null and void and means any subsequent owners of the property had no claim on the strip of land either, he contends.
City attorney Mike Marsh said he believes Mr. Rayle has a valid argument.
He said the city obtained the title to the property in question when it was undertaking the downtown revitalization project known as Heritage 2000. The property had been private property that was used as an alleyway for years, but the city wanted to install sidewalks, curbs, and lights as part of Heritage 2000 to make it a public walkway.
"Mrs. Hillard gave us a quit claim deed but she wanted restrictions saying it couldn't be blocked. It had to be open to pedestrian traffic, no patios," Mr. Marsh said. "We accepted that deed because we didn't intend to do anything with it."
Uptown Downtown's complaint, which has been assigned to Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey, does not seek damages or attorneys' fees. Mr. Rayle said the bar owner simply wants the court to determine if the restrictions are valid or not so the bar owner can proceed with plans for the patio area.
The statewide smoking ban approved by Ohio voters in November and effective Thursday prohibits smoking in bars.
Mr. Rayle said Uptown Downtown would need to have an enclosed outdoor area if it were to allow patrons to take drinks outside when they smoke.
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