The Carmel City Council on Monday night unanimously approved new fines for public urination and defecation in response to a slew of complaints about a new tavern in the city’s downtown.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said he and a multi-agency task force have met since September to discuss issues at The GOAT—which stands for the Greatest of All Taverns. The bar and restaurant opened in the former Bub’s Cafe building at 220 2nd St. SW in August, and residents have since complained about encountering human waste, stumbling upon public sex acts, excessive noise and other general nuisances.
The council’s action on Monday preceded a potential new noise ordinance and rezoning of the tavern’s property to be considered at future meetings that might further address the issues.
“This is an example of a business—of which I’ve been in for 35 years—being run improperly,” council member Kevin Rider said. “The list of police calls is four pages long. The business owner, to be a good corporate citizen, should be willing to do these things voluntarily. Now.”
There are already criminal citations for public indecency, Brainard said, but the standard of evidence is much higher for an officer investigating such matters. By creating a civil citation, police will have a lower threshold to prove the offense occurred and be able to issue a citation, he said.
The new ordinance states any person over 7 years old who urinates or defecates in public could face fines of up to $250 for the first offense and up to $2,500 for each subsequent offense.
Neighbors have been butting heads with public officials over The GOAT’s zoning.
Brainard said Bub’s Cafe was granted a variance in March 2007 to operate a breakfast and lunch restaurant in an area adjacent to neighborhoods. When The GOAT moved in, the variance assigned to that property was transferred to the new business. What Brainard said the city’s staff failed to notice was the fact that the variance only granted restaurant operations until 2 p.m.
“From a medical standpoint, this is the equivalent of a wrong-site surgery or leaving a sponge in someone,” council member Tim Hannon said.
Brainard said it will require further legal investigation to see if the city can force The GOAT to shut down, but he’s been trying to see if he can get owners Kevin and Megan Paul to come into compliance before resorting to that action.
“We’ll continue to make, what I refer to, as small, incremental changes that make this compatible with the other businesses operating under the same rules successfully—without complaints—in that neighborhood as well,” he said.
Brainard said the Pauls have built a fence between their property and the neighborhood, are committed to hiring plainclothes security to patrol the area and are planning to build additional restrooms to accommodate demand.
The Pauls, who also own the Brockway Pub and Danny Boy Beer Works in Carmel, could not be reached for immediate comment after the meeting.
Several council members suggested a noise ordinance that could limit loudspeakers between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and a corrective commercial rezoning of the property that further restricts the bar’s occupancy limits.
Council member Adam Aasen said he’s not in favor of a rezoning because he doesn’t think the owners have shown a willingness to make changes to reduce complaints. Even though the business was aware of impending ordinances and zoning changes, it’s still allowing unwelcome activities to happen, he said.
“Their own bartenders have complained about it,” he said. “Their employees go next door and pee on the [neighbor’s] property because they don’t want to wait in line to get back to work. A rezone now would be a terrible idea. It would make them legal. Right now, they’re illegal. That’s easier to enforce. I wouldn’t support a rezone to (commercial) now for anything.”