By a 3-2 vote after much public comment, the Leonardtown Council this week approved a temporary extension of outdoor seating for Social Coffeehouse & Cocktail Bar.
The town had earlier approved temporary outdoor seating for the popular business as a result of COVID-19, but Town Administrator Laschelle McKay said Monday was the first time the council actually voted on the issue.
A conflict with a neighboring business, David’s Flowers, was evident during the Sept. 13 meeting, which included comments from that business owner’s brother.
“This is my fourth time coming before you guys on this,” Sean Coogan, the coffeehouse’s owner, said. “The town has been great getting this kick-started,” he said, calling the outdoor seating a “godsend. It helped Social realize it hasn’t reached its full potential.”
“I can’t compete with Dunkin’ Donuts,” he said. “We need to make coffee that’s worth walking for, parking for. It’s not just tables and chairs, it’s people’s jobs. We’ve grown by 60% during 2020.”
A couple of young women who work at the coffeehouse, which is located at 41658 Fenwick St., spoke in favor of the business. One who moved from the Boston area describing the positive effect sunshine has on her while working.
A customer also voiced her support. “I came straight from teaching in Calvert County because I support outdoor seating [through December],” Hollywood resident Kara Forrest said.
“The first thing I do when I go to Leonardtown is Social Coffeehouse,” Forrest said. “They were one of the silver linings of COVID. I saw this town wake up to the aesthetic of outdoor seating. You need to continue to make it pedestrian-friendly.”
Mayor Dan Burris said “the owner of the building next to Social will not sign” a letter to allow permanent seating in front of his business. “This is only temporary,” Burris said.
In addition to using one parking space for seating in front of Social Coffeehouse, the business is also using one of two spaces in front of David’s Flowers.
“You already have one permanent [parking] space,” Councilwoman Mary Maday Slade said to Coogan. “The outdoor seating will not go away.”
“We will still be able to have four tables [without an extension],” Coogan said, referring to the parking space in front of his business.
Burris asked Coogan if he is planning to move and if he had a timeline for making a decision. Coogan said he didn’t have a “public” timeline, but added that his business “is the largest and fastest growing coffee restaurant in Southern Maryland.”
Coogan said he planned to go the St. Mary’s Alcohol and Beverage Board to request an extension to outdoor seating for alcohol past Oct. 31.
“There’s a lot of nice days after Oct. 31,” McKay said.
Slade noted that the flower shop “has been there 35 years” and has “clients who can’t even get to his front door.”
“I’m not against outdoor seating,” said Kevin Mattingly, the brother of flower shop owner David Mattingly. [Coogan] goes out three times and puts tables in front of [David’s Flowers].”
“We thought there was going to be an end in sight [of COVID-19],” he said. “There’s not going to be an end in sight. It’s going to go on and on and on.”
Mattingly noted that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires 36 inches for access in front of a business. “The only time you’re not ADA-compliant is when a customer pulls a chair around,” Burris said.
“Why are you coming to the council four times?” Mattingly asked Coogan. “If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.”
“I have 20-some employees,” Coogan said. “I have talked to David a number of times. I’m done.” Coogan said he called the police once too. “My girls got threatened ... I have to look to moving into a whole different building.”
Coogan said he invested in wooden barrels outside the business, noting that a vehicle struck outside his business in early 2021. As a result, the town put up a stop sign at the end of Fenwick Street, which Coogan said “has only screwed up the traffic even more, no offense.”
The council discussed giving Coogan an extension to Dec. 31, but Councilman Tyler Alt suggested making it until Jan. 2, noting that Dec. 31 is a Friday.
“That would give you time to know if you’re moving or not,” Burris said.
“I’d be glad to facilitate some sort of a truce,” former councilman Charlie Breck said.
Councilman Jay Mattingly made the motion to approve the extension, which was seconded by Nick Colvin. Alt joined them in voting yes. Slade and Councilwoman Christy Hollander voted no.
Afterward, Ellen Lewis, president of the Leonardtown Business Association, said, “This is really very sad to hear. I don’t see any reason why it can’t work out. This whole parking thing is a mindset shift. It’s a function of the success of the town. It’s a good problem to have. I truly believe this is a personality issue. These are both good people with solid businesses that belong in town.”
Waterfront plan contract approved
In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve $52,290 for a contract with Mahan Rykiel Associates of Baltimore for the second phase of the strategic downtown plan. McKay noted it includes West Fenwick Street and the Leonardtown Wharf.
“Every day I get emails and calls [from people with] ideas about the waterfront,” she said.
The consultant would host two kick-off meetings in October, including visits with “key property owners in the study area roughly bounded by the square, Breton Bay, McIntosh Run and Route 5,” according to a board document.
The company also plans a three- or four-day workshop in November that includes a public input meeting. A report from the contractor to the council is slated for February.
Amish Outlaws concert planned
The council also approved a liquor license letter of support for the The Rex and Antoinette’s Garden restaurants to host The Amish Outlaws in concert on Oct. 16 from noon to 9 p.m. outside their businesses.
The concert will benefit Daniel Norris, who is recovering from the effects of chemotherapy and brain cancer, according to a gofundme.com page. Some $40,000 has been raised toward a goal of $100,000 as of Tuesday, Sept. 14.
McKay announced the council’s next meeting will be at 4 p.m. on Oct. 12, a day later than normal due to Columbus Day.