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City Council Says Cajun Dave’s Can Keep On Smokin’

Conditional use permit for restaurant's on-street smoker will be extended for a full year.

It’s Friday, which means will be serving up its BBQ Platter Special tonight featuring meats slow-cooked in its mega-smoker – a weekly event the restaurant is allowed to continue on Water Street for another year, says .

Last May council voted to extend a conditional use permit allowing the restaurant, which is located inside the , to operate in front of the building twice weekly. The smoker is typically only used on Fridays.

Council’s approval in May came after several neighboring business owners wrote letters , which is why the extension came with the condition that council review the operation this month.

That review took place during a 20-minute conversation Wednesday that ended with council voting to extend Cajun Dave’s conditional use permit for another year. That vote will be formalized during council’s regular meeting on Feb. 15.

Tracy Wallach and Heidi Shaffer were the only council members to share any recent complaints made about the smoker – and they cast the only dissenting votes on the issue. Both said they believe opponents are still unhappy with the smoker’s presence, but they’ve resigned themselves to it being parked outside Cajun Dave’s on Fridays.

Councilman John Kuhar said he had voted against the issue in May based on complaints made at the time. “Over the past six-month period I haven’t seen any complaints come into council and, for that reason alone, I’m going to vote for it (this time),” he said.

Councilman Garrett Ferrara, who said the smoker “draws people to downtown,” made a motion to extend Cajun Dave’s conditional use permit for a full year without any review stipulations.

“We haven’t seen the arguments against the smoker like we did the last time,” Ferrara said. “To do (a review) every six months … throws a wrench in their spokes. If the problem becomes big enough we’ll pull it up sooner than 12 months, but there’s no reason to go through this process every six months.”

Water Street Tavern owner Mike Beder, who co-owns Cajun Dave’s with Brian Bower, said today that he’s grateful for council’s action.

“I’m happy that council took the six-month period to look at (the issue) analytically and get comments from people and check it out for themselves. The ones who did that seemed to vote in our favor,” he said.

Beder said the smoker is, indeed, a huge draw for Cajun Dave’s and Water Street Tavern.

“Every Friday night is packed for us … and when people see the smoker out there, we’re even busier. One of the council members said (the smoker) was an advertising tool for us, and that’s actually true. It acts as a Pied Piper for delicious barbecue,” Beder chuckled.

Despite its draw – and the unusually warm weather today – Beder and Bower decided to use the smoker off-site in deference to council’s need to formalize the smoker permit on Feb. 15.

“If anyone has issues with it, it doesn’t make us happy at all. We’re trying to be good neighbors. We’ll continue to try to find ways to reduce the smoke without compromising the quality of the product,” Beder said.

He added that he’s been keeping an eye on his own building facade for signs of issues related to the smoker, but has yet to see any.

“(The building) hasn’t required anything more than typical maintenance. We just washed it down a couple days ago to get salt off, but there’s been no need for extra cleaning or power washing because of the smoker,” Beder explained.

And, he added, he’s protective and proud of his building’s facade.

“We were the first place downtown to work with the city on its facade program – before or or – to put a major investment into the front of their building. And I’d like to think that that investment made some other places step up their game. After making that kind of investment, the last thing we’d want to do is something to harm it,” he explained.

Wade February 04, 2012 at 11:03 AM
There have been a lot of comments on the articles regarding this smoker, but no one has addressed the (IMO) real issue. Is the barbecue good? Would really appreciate some opinions on the quality of the food, especially from folks who are strong with the BBQ force... folks who, like myself, find Old "Carolina" Barbecue a little disappointing. TIA.
Randy Durant February 04, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Excellent! So it is not unreasonable for one to assume, that this motion sets precedent for ANYONE with a custom smoker that is currently engaged in restaurant commerce...to park their smoking unit outside of their establishment, for convenience purposes, as well as to draw more business. Perfect. Zoupwerks looks forward to sharing with the world, the visual beauty of the process in which we deliver to our menu, the leanest, most tender and flavorful, piled high pulled pork in the region. A separate section of our smoker should be allotted for the smoking/grilling of non-meat products for our large vegan/vegetarian clientele, as well. How exciting!
Holly Schweitzer February 04, 2012 at 12:23 PM
So glad the smoker gets to stay! Awesome food, I am glad we are allowing individual restaurants to have personality and distinction!
Chris (Kit) Myers February 04, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Bring on the clothes racks, the barber chairs, the baubles, bangles, and beads. Merchants, the door is wide open for you.
Gary Michaels February 04, 2012 at 02:26 PM
It's fantastic! Their whole menu is, too. IMO they're making the best food in town. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea because of the walk-up-window vs a server- but worth the "hassle".
Gary Michaels February 04, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I agree! I hope some more merchants get creative and make downtown more vibrant!
Max Gilliland February 04, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I'm glad to see council vote this way maybe we can stop letting the few in this town spoil it for the rest!
Chris (Kit) Myers February 04, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Certainly it adds vibrancy to the downtown and is good for the owner's business. Be the food good, bad, or indifferent, the smoker is, in fact, an advertisement for a business; a sign. It is therefore contrary to Kent's sign ordinance. You either have a sign ordinance or you don't. All businesses would benefit if they extended their business into the street, and that could be done if downtown were a walking mall, but it isn't. The street is for traffic flow and for parking. I await the response of council when someone else petitions the city to use a space for advertising their services or wares, and someone may just do so. The precedent is set. How do you say no to them? There is competition in the restaurant business in Kent and everyone is entitled to equal opportunity for it. If I had a competing business I would have something out in the street promoting it in a New York minute.
* February 04, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I agree too, Gary!
Holly Schweitzer February 04, 2012 at 04:46 PM
The smoker serves a purpose, in that it smokes the food for patrons to eat. I'm sure if another business had a sign which somehow assisted in the once-weekly production of goods or services, it would be appreciated as well. But saying no to the smoker because it violates the sign ordinance? Do we want Kent to look like a carbon copy of some awful suburban stripmall, or do we want it to have character and individuality? Why is everyone so eager to slam the smoker, anyway? Increased traffic to one business is a benefit to the other businesses as well. The city has no chance to prosper if the business community is divided against itself, it's time to grow up and let Kent flourish as the unique city it is.
Kasha Legeza February 04, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Toward the end of Wednesday's discussion, one councilmember brought up Zoupwerks' use of a smaller smoker outside the Erie Street restaurant to create its pulled pork and said, "it doesn't seem to bother anybody." No one disagreed with that statement.
* February 04, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Holly S., beautifully said!! Thank you!
* February 04, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Zoupwerks has a smoker? First time I've heard about that. Very interesting...
Kasha Legeza February 04, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Kit, excluding the barber chair, you've just described one of my favorite shopping/dining districts in Toronto: Kensington Market. It has a fun, funky, engaging vibe that makes it a destination where you want to wander, linger, people-watch and, inevitably, spend more money then you would have in a pristine, cookie-cutter "downtown." Bring on the flavor, Kent!
Chris (Kit) Myers February 04, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Kasha, are they out on the street? What is parking like in the area? I love what you are talking about in a siuation that can accomodate it.
demo rat February 05, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Here's an idea - eliminate street parking on that side of water St. and expand the sidewalk so there would be room for a smoker and sidewalk dining for other restaurants. This town really needs some outdoor dining and sidewalk cafes. And before you all jump on me, yes I know Laziza has that outdoor area and yes, I understand safety issues would need to be addressed accordingly.

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