Lodi Tap House to add outdoor bar in downtown Utica

Utica Village Board must OK special use before construction

Lodi Tap House will build a partial enclosure to expand outdoor seating when weather permits.

Thursday, the Utica Planning Commission voted 4-2 to recommend a special use be granted to Lodi owner/principal manager Luke Goucher and Railside Real Estate LLC, clearing the way for Lodi to operate an outdoor seasonal bar at the southwest corner of Canal and Mill streets.

“We’d like to prepare a seasonal beer garden of sorts,” Goucher said.

The designs show seating for about 250 people plus fire pits and a stage for live music. Goucher estimated 95% of the product sold would be craft beer by Obscurity Brewing, affiliated with Lodi.

The outdoor area would be adorned with parts of decommissioned grain silos. The design includes an area where a food truck can be parked. The property in question is currently a parking lot just south of Lodi, housed in the former Duffy’s building. The sight lines would include the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Goucher said he doesn’t plan year-round use and would suspend outdoor service around mid-November, resuming in mid-April. Goucher said his contractor has quoted him six to eight weeks for construction, with opening targeted for Memorial Day weekend.

The planning commission approved the special use with a stipulation the beer garden be sufficiently enclosed to satisfy existing village rules such as those governing open containers.

Commissioner Warren Munson voted no, saying the project doesn’t comport with the plans for a historic downtown.

“I don’t see how anybody can explain to me how this fits that,” Munson said.

Commissioner Mike Brown also voted no.

“I think it’s a great idea and it looks good, the location and proximity to the downtown ... just doesn’t feel right,” Brown said.

There were objections and concerns. Village trustees Ron and Mary Pawlak and Debbie Krizel said either they harbored concerns about the number of liquor licenses already issued and/or fielded calls from residents with similar concerns.

A building permit will be required and full approval is pending before the Utica Village Board.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.