Inside Red Flag—a new bar on NE 28th, a busy strip dotted with lounges, restaurants, and boutiques—patrons flip through selections on the jukebox and play Scrabble with the bartender. Outside, however, neighbors say sidewalk seating that's open late has a noisy impact on nearby residents.
"The restaurants aren't the problem," explains Kerns Neighborhood Association (KNA) rep Sue Jenson, 12-years resident. "It's the bars that are open until 2 or 2:30 in the morning. I don't think we need bars on every block."
Music from Red Flag's jukebox carries outside, Jenson says, "and they don't allow smoking inside, so there's always people outside. There's noise ordinances, but... at night, your only recourse is to call the police."
The KNA voted to oppose Red Flag's liquor license at their May monthly meeting, but the bar was already set to open in June. Jenson approached Red Flag's owner, Danny Bortfeld, about signing a Good Neighbor Agreement—a non-binding contract that outlines things the neighborhood wants (like when outdoor seating closes down), in exchange for the neighborhood association's support during liquor license renewals.
Bortfeld, however, turned down Jenson's request. He says he would sign a Good Neighbor Agreement—as soon as the KNA got every other bar in the neighborhood to sign one. Until then, he's going to continue operating his bar lawfully. "No matter what, there's going to be people sitting outside. People can be outside smoking."
Sidewalk seating permits do not restrict the hours of outdoor seating, though "after 10 you have to keep the noise down," according to a representative for the city's Department of Transportation. The city has received just one complaint about Red Flag—an email on August 13 about a broken mirror on the sidewalk. The OLCC was not able to confirm whether they've received any complaints by press time.
Bortfeld says that he's only heard one concern about his business since he put up his liquor license notice months ago: A neighboring business inquired about the bar's impact on parking. If anyone else has concerns, he'd love to hear them directly.
Red Flag isn't the only bar the KNA has objected to recently. Over the past few months, the association has twice objected to a new liquor license for a bar called The Standard, slated to open on NE 22nd just off of Burnside (that bar secured a liquor license recently, and may open by the end of the month).
And the neighborhood isn't finished with Red Flag: Jenson is going to approach Bortfeld again about a Good Neighbor Agreement.