Permit surprise presents snag for patio business

A technicality is spoiling the party for a downtown restaurant in the of the Arts Factory at 107 E. Charleston Blvd.

The Bar + Bistro, at the Arts Factory building’s eastern end, features gourmet cuisine, classic cocktails and contemporary art. It has become a popular destination on First Friday and for the Sunday afternoon “Hangover Brunch” complete with a five-piece bluegrass band.

In the spring and fall, patrons sit at patio tables outside the restaurant to bask in the mild weather. The patio holds about 80 dining customers and is about two-thirds the size of the indoor seating of the bar and restaurant combined. The Vintage Bike Night event held on the patio the third Friday of each month can draw as many as 200 patrons, a big boost to the restaurant’s business.

However, in May, the Las Vegas Planning Department sent a notice to Wes Myles Isbutt, who co-owns the Arts Factory with his wife, Debra Heiser, ordering him to stop serving alcohol on the patio because he lacked a special-use permit for the parcel the patio occupies.

Isbutt bought the Arts Factory building in 1997 and began transforming it into a mixed-use complex and a commercial arts center. The Arts Factory now has 23 commercial art-related tenants representing photography, fine art, architecture, graphic design, along with a yoga school, jewelers and the Bar+Bistro.

In 2006, Isbutt bought the adjoining vacant property at 132 E. Charleston Blvd. and, seeing the Bar+Bistro’s success, built a patio cover and added seating to increase business. The patio has operated for the past four years.

According to the Las Vegas Planning Department, the Bar+Bistro has a special use permit to serve alcohol at the 107 E. Charleston Blvd. address. But because the patio parcel was never joined with the Arts Factory parcel when it was purchased, it has a separate address and parcel number and therefore requires its own special use permit.

The error was caught during a routine business license inspection.

Isbutt has applied for a special use permit for the patio. The Bar + Bistro also must submit plans to the Building and Safety Department to ensure that the patio area is safe.

City of Las Vegas senior public information officer Jace Radke said, “The city does not want to be a burden to the business and is working with the owner to make sure the area is up to code and that he has the right permits. While Bar + Bistro ownership is getting its plans together and bringing anything on the patio that is not up to code into compliance, Building and Safety will issue a 90-day permit that will allow the Bar +Bistro to utilize the patio while the code process is ongoing.”

How can a small-busisness owner avoid this kind of costly disruption? Each government entity operates differently, but all have frequently asked questions guides online and phone numbers to call to have specific questions answered.

In general, if you modifying your building or property, it is best to deal with a licensed professional such as an architect, engineer, registered interior designer or plumber, as they generally know the building codes and what is permissible in each jurisdiction. Restaurants, in particular, should check with the Health District and Business License officials before changing menu items, kitchen operations or seating capacity.

A call to the fire inspector can help small-business owners avoid fire code violations pertaining to dining area access or potentially flammable decorations.

For now, Isbutt and Heiser have to wait. They hope their 90-day permit will arrive in time for the June Vintage Bike Night and July First Friday.

Red Tape Chronicles is an occasional feature that looks at rub points between the business community and government. Have a story to share? Email

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