Carmel zoning board closes The GOAT by denying owner’s request

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The Greatest of All Taverns, or The GOAT, was denied a use variance to continue its operations at 220 2nd St. SW. (IBJ Photo | Kurt Christian)

The Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals effectively forced The GOAT restaurant and bar to close Monday, following a months-long controversy over the bar operating in a primarily residential area.

The Greatest of All Taverns, also known as The GOAT, opened in the former Bub’s Café space at 220 2nd St. SW in August. Soon after, neighbors started complaining about the business’ unruly patrons.

City officials discovered that the tavern’s nighttime bar activities were not covered by the special zoning that had allowed Bub’s Cafe, a breakfast and brunch spot, to operate in a residential neighborhood. On Monday, the zoning board denied owner Kevin Paul an updated use ordinance that would’ve allowed for the continued operation of his bar. The board’s vote was 4-1, with member Leo Dierckman dissenting.

“This is a whole mess. This should’ve never been allowed to happen. They never should have been allowed to open, and we’re being asked to legitimize a bad situation,” Alan Potasnik, the board’s president, said. “This is an area that is residential, and a use that is not. I don’t see a single criteria which has been met, so I can’t approve this.”

IBJ could not reach Paul for comment Tuesday.

The city and Paul have taken actions to remedy neighbors’ complaints about noise, public intoxication, littering, vomiting, trespassing and other nuisance activities in that area.

The city council approved new public urination and defecation fines and considered changes to make its noise ordinance easier to enforce. In December, the city briefly permitted The GOAT to operate under Bub’s Cafe’s special zoning. Two days later, it established a set of commitments wherein The GOAT could operate in the evening by adding security, reducing its operating hours, increasing cleanliness measures and more.

Paul, who co-owns The GOAT, Brockway Pub and Danny Boy Beer Works in Carmel with his wife, Megan, also made physical improvements to deter wandering patrons and put forth plans for a building addition that would bring more restroom facilities to the premises.

Monday’s petition did not include plans for additional restrooms to be built, but it did establish a dozen commitments under what would essentially be a six-month trial run. The new commitments included a limited capacity of 80 patrons, activities being forced indoors after 10 p.m., and more.

Paul said he didn’t have the legal authority or the ability to influence patrons’ behavior other than putting certain mechanisms in place, like security lights, fencing, cones and security.

“We’ve tried to deploy anything that’s been recommended to us over the last six months, from hedges to fences to lighting to barriers, motion sensors, cameras and whatnot,” Paul said. “And we’ll continue to do that. If we think there’s something that will help, we’ll certainly invest the time, money and energy in accomplishing it without question.”

Dierckman said those commitments were significant, challenging and necessary. He was the lone board member to support allowing The GOAT to continue its operations.

“I certainly appreciate the degree to which the team has gone to accommodate the needs of the city, to keep free market capitalism and community service and being a good business and member of our community in Carmel,” he said.

Paul further defended the business’ relationship to surrounding properties by noting its changing dynamics.

“It is an urban, mixed environment,” Paul said. “Those who live there and take advantage of everything it has to offer need to understand that those things are going on. We all have to manage this thing, and it’s not just The GOAT.”

A majority of the board was not convinced, however. Paul’s remaining petitions for development standard variances were indefinitely tabled, now that the property has reverted to its previous residential zoning.

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31 thoughts on “Carmel zoning board closes The GOAT by denying owner’s request

  1. When did downtown Carmel become a purely “residential area?” This place is directly across the street from a massive Sun King operation and another bar. It is one block from Main Street and its bars.

    1. I actually looked on Google maps to remind myself where exactly this is. I’m pro-business, but the “square” block this is on the corner of is all homes except for The GOAT. If I bought a home adjacent, thinking that I was in a residential zone or at worst had a quiet breakfast/brunch place next to me, I’d be pretty annoyed that I have to now deal with noise and light at night, and worrying that if my kid looks out the window at night they might see people peeing outside. Seems like there were good intentions all around, but things just didn’t go as hoped.

  2. Finally they did something right. The one vote for it was by a Brainard protégé who has made a lot during the Brainard regime. Allowing a bar next to $700k houses would be an insane policy.

  3. Reimbursed this owner since it WAS permitted to open under the true description as the business being a bar. Idiot small town bureaucrats, they qualify for federal level idiots.

    1. The owner was at fault for not checking the details of the zoning. The zoning is restrictive for the very reasons this place created a nuisance. Through ing orange and apathy, the owner proved the case against him.

    2. Dan M., if you think the GOAT owner is responsible for determining the zoning and use permits required for a ;particular business, then why even have the city bureaucracy and elected oversight? Yes, the business should have studied and inquired about the specifics of that sight, but we hold (or should hold) our public servants to higher standards of intelligence and standards. If that bar is too high for them, then they need to be replaced.

    3. Brent B. I think your ignorance is showing. When you decide to open a business it is up to the business owner to make sure they have complied with the law, from zoning, to permits, to liquor licenses. Often each one of those involves a different branch of government that does not even communicate to the other. Zoning and zoning variances are part of the public record. One of three things happened in this case, the owner was too stupid to look it up, they were too lazy to look it up, or they knew they were on shaky ground and moved forward anyway.

    4. Dan M., just how did GOAT get it’s license to serve alcohol at that site? Somewhere a bureaucrat allowed that to happen. Elected officials and their bureaucrat minions are charged with not just creating laws and regulations, but making sure they are enforced as well. They screwed up. Big time.

  4. There are like 15 bars within a 2 minute walk from that intersection. Sounds more like there is one “powerful” neighbor in that block that is throwing a fit.

  5. It was the Buyer’s responsibility to understand the specifics of the zoning before buying the site. I’m no fan of government bureaucrats in general, but they do not have a responsibility to contact every prospective Buyer of property to pro-actively review the zoning details with the prospective Buyer. The Buyer could have (should have) asked the Seller for the specifics, and/or researched the zoning with the city of Carmel. Where Carmel screwed up was allowing the GOAT to open in the first place, or at least not shutting it down faster as soon as neighbors’ complaints came in and they verified the GOAT was not in compliance with the zoning.

  6. The city is EVERY BIT at fault in this matter. Over reach due to the city’s own oversite and incompetence is screwing a business owner that is VERY committed to this town.
    Brainard needs to do the right thing and get this FIXED. The Paul’s have made a SIGNIFICANT and unique investment in the city core on a site that could not support a residence.
    Just because the GOAT doesn’t fit the Disney mantra doesn’t mean it is not good for the community- FIX THIS!

    1. The right thing…interesting. The right thing is to enforce the zoning that exists. The right thing is, if you don’t like the zoning, either don’t buy the property, or enter the process to get the zoning changed. The right thing is for those responsible for zoning to consider all aspects of the request for rezoning, and the opinions of all others affected and the degree to which they are impacted. For example, a homeowner who has to deal with the downsides every day/night would/should have more sway than a bar patron who doesn’t. Neighbors (plural) whose lives are clearly negatively impacted have more say than a businessman who is operating in violation of the zoning. I don’t argue the Paul’s may have made significant (not so sure how unique – a bar is hardly a novelty…) investment(s). But let’s be real – they made their investments to earn returns, not as a charitable organization serving the needs of the downtrodden.

      The community, through it’s elected representatives (who appoint/hire the non-elected bureaucrats), can choose whatever mantra they want. Different people will have different opinions on what that should be. But if the majority prefer a more “Disney-esque” mantra over a “Animal House-esque” mantra, then that is how the elected officials should proceed, subject to any other over-arching rules/regulations that take precedence.

      Randy S., how understanding of you. I’d be more convinced if you stated you lived next to the GOAT and were OK with the regular vomiting, loud music into the night, people going outside to urinate as a result of the owner failing to have enough restroom toilets/urinals, and unfortunately the savages who don’t “draw the line at dropping a deuce”.

      No one is arguing that the location should be a residence. There are numerous types of businesses that don’t involve public vomiting, urination, and defecation…

  7. If you’ve ever been a 20-something drinker, and who hasn’t, then you gotta figure occasional vomiting comes with the territory. And, dare I say, some public urination, if done discreetly, isn’t the end of the world. I would draw the line, however, at dropping a deuce. 🙂

  8. Kevin Paul is laughing all the way to the bank. He violated every Covid shamdemic distancing and masking policy for all of 2020. It was the only bar to be at during the pandemic in all of Indianapolis/Carmel. Most of the bar dwellers I know, Ubered there nightly from Marion County. He raked in the dough. One of his bartenders told me she was making $1000/night Thurs-Sat in tips. Guarantee he made millions off this short run.

    If I was a betting man, I would bet he knew he was miszoned and would have to eventually close. And, he just put the pedal to the floor until he was closed for Covid violations or city zoning violations. Either way, it was a hell of a run, GOAT. It was certainly the Greatest of all Taverns during the pandemic and one of the few places that kept me sane during 2020. RIP.

  9. This fiasco went the way it did because of public outcry. It became impossible to sweep it under the rug. That is why, past a quarter into 2021 one of the city elements finally took action (instead of immediately taking action last year.)
    It’s akin to other Carmel fiascos.. the carousel, all the white statues, suing Minneapolis, the ‘public art committee’, et al. The art committee was practically defunct and inactive until the most recent grotesque art installment (scratchy ball) drove public outcry. Then, as with this, the city was suddenly scrambling to find a bigger rug.
    Votes should ask themselves why they keep voting for people who make a farce out of this city and don’t react until there’s sufficient outcry.

  10. This is the most popular bar in Carmel for a reason. Hundreds of people love the vibe and enjoy their lives in the evenings here.

    A bunch of people who love to complain and stay inside won this fight to keep it around.

    I cant say whether this is a certain thing, but it kinda feels like a bunch of liberal transplants complaining about a business that isn’t their vibe.

    This is a tragedy for Carmel. Congrats on converting to a less fun place apparently designed for a bunch of complainers.

    Move if you don’t like the vibe. I would have loved to see a public vote to keep The Goat around. The people who cry about everything and are sad about other people’s happiness affecting their misery speak out about stuff like this…..

    I never post publicly, but this is ridiculous.

  11. I live downtown very close to the monon by Main St. The monon needs to have multiple nodes of vibrancy to attract people to support the businesses and so on. The closer you get to the Monon, the more vibrancy there is, and should be. If you don’t like vibrancy, move away from the Monon. I love living downtown, and will miss the GOAT, even if it was only great for a short time. Last time I checked, there were planned commercial establishments on the Monon across the street from the GOAT on the ground floor of the Railyard. I guess apartment homes are not residential…

  12. To L D;
    the city of Carmel APPROVED the building permits AND the planned use of the space. The city of Carmel conducted the required construction inspections and the STATE Fire Marshall approves final occupancy of a space like the GOAT. The State and city also approved the 3 Way Liquor license. Many eyes reviewed this process & renovation. Mr. Paul did not “sneakily” change a breakfast business place to slipping in spiked Maple syrup and then start selling rounds of shots! It was a highly visible major construction transformation.
    The city is responsible for the zoning “oversight” – MAJOR cluster F on Brainard administration.
    OH and Kevin Paul does have very unique investment in his establishments – try getting a drink to chill a bit Francis, er LD.
    Fix this problem CORRECTLY Carmel Government