More than 50 people packed the hearing room of the Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday morning, an unusually large turnout for the board’s meetings.
The draw? Debate on the popular Irish bar and restaurant, the Harp, which sought a variance to present live music — something it’s been doing since it opened 13 years ago.
While owner Karen O’Malley said she was merely seeking to operate legally, some neighbors objected that the variance would be a blanket permit to present music both indoors and out. Supporters of the Harp dismissed the concerns as something that only cropped up twice a year — on St. Patrick’s Day and July 4 when it’s noisy everywhere. But neighbors like Julie Kurtock, who brought along attorney Alan Rapoport, were concerned that patio music could become a regular summer occurrence.
O’Malley acknowledged that she wanted to offer music outdoors as often as possible, but told Scene that the music she normally presents — blues, folk, and Irish acts like Walkin’ Cane and Brent Kirby — are “not as boisterous” as the act that provoked complaints on St. Patrick’s Day: the Boys from the County Hell.
Councilmen Joe Cimperman and Matt Zone, and Eric Wobser and Tom McNair from the Ohio City Inc. Development Corporation testified in support of the Harp.
But as Bill Merriman, president of the Franklin Block Club which serves the neighborhood adjacent to the Harp, pointed out, no one was denying Harp was good for the community; the neighbors just wanted peace and quiet.
Ultimately, the zoning board overlooked the neighbors’ concerns and granted the variance. Kurtock indicated that they are considering an administrative appeal to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
Merriman said afterward that he was taken by surprise when, toward the conclusion of the meeting, Cimperman presented the members of the zoning board with a “good neighbor agreement” he said had been worked out between the Harp and nearby residents. Neither he nor Kurtock had even seen the agreement prior to the hearing.