MASON, Mich. — For the first time in more than 100 years, the city of Mason has given up its right to the exclusive use of the downtown alley between BAD Brewing and Kean's.
The reason? So BAD Brewing can continue to use the space for outdoor seating.
It started with a special use agreement between BAD Brewing and the city in summer 2020.
"As part of COVID, the city allowed businesses downtown to use public space to expand outdoors because of the restrictions for indoor seating in the restaurants and bars," Mason Mayor Russell Whipple said.
"Opening up out here in the open air...being able to be socially distanced, it worked out really good for us and helped us. We ran that through early fall of 2020 and then we brought it back this year in 2021,"Brian Rasdale, owner of BAD Brewing Company, said.
Rasdale said that adding the alley seating to its original patio space "got us back to basically almost 100 percent capacity."
"And it draws a lot of people to downtown," Whipple said. "People come to town and go to BAD just to sit outside in that alley."
That agreement with the city, however, was set to expire at the end of this month.
"We really wanted to keep this space open so come mid-summer we started talking with the city and looking at options of what can we do to utilize this space full-time," Rasdale said.
Rasdale and Teresa Wren, owner of Kean's next door, requested that the city vacate the alley.
"To keep the alley the way he has created it," Wren said. "He brings business to me and I'm sure I bring business to his business also, and when he started the street parties, it just added a lot of life to Mason."
Owner of Courthouse Pub in Mason Joe Ghinelli has his reservations.
"It's very creative, I think it's genius. My concern is that when does it end? What's going to happen to my community with traffic flow? Are they going to do it in my alley?" Ghinelli said.
Monday night The Mason City Council voted 7-0 to vacate the alley.
"So, now, once this vacating process is officially finished through recording deeds and all that, then Kean's will own a chunk of property that's half the alley and BAD Brewing will own the other half," Whipple said.
One important thing to note, however, is that the alley was never technically owned by the city.
"What the city owned was an exclusive right to use the alley," Whipple said. "We didn't give away anything, we gave it back...back to the properties that originally dedicated it to the city for an alley."
Rasdale said he plans to have heated, outdoor seating in the alley come winter.
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