In September's National Geographic Adventure magazine, a full-page glossy photo of The Garage in Hyde Park opens up a seven-page spread on life in Boise. Taken at dusk, the image of the bar's neon lights and crowded patio epitomizes the adventurous outdoor lifestyle the magazine says we Boiseans lead. But as Hyde Park regulars know, the scene National Geographic Adventure captured is long gone, even as the issue hits stands. In fact, the scene outside The Garage isn't much of a scene at all any more, since the City of Boise posted signs saying the building was unsafe to occupy, and shut down inside operations in June.
Owned by Liza Goul, who owns the Lucky 13 restaurant next door, and situated in what was once a gas station back service bay area, The Garage operated for a year before city inspectors cited the bar for building code violations. Now, the bar's indoor tables and chairs are stacked up and one of the service bay doors is permanently closed with city signs posted to keep out. Although the second service bay door remains partially open, a temporary bar has been set up just outside, requiring bartenders to scuttle back and forth between the bar proper and the temporary service station outside.
"A lot of people are asking," said Goul about the fate of not only The Garage, but Lucky 13 as well. "Now the rumor is that we're closing in a month and that's just not true."
What is true is that the city received anonymous complaints regarding code violations at the Hyde Park bar. Following investigation, city officials determined that the bar was in violation of occupancy, parking and restroom codes, and that remodeling, including the construction of new indoor walls and a fire wall, would be required to bring the building into compliance with city code.
According to officials within the city building inspector's office who asked not to be named, the necessary changes constitute "slight remodels" and "an upgrade to the restrooms that's not extensive." (City code requires that if a restroom is open to the public, male and female restrooms must be available--a code that several area bars, including others in Hyde Park, are also violating.)
For now, with the temporary bar outside, "they're operating legally from a building code standpoint," says City of Boise Building Development Manager Jennifer Gilliland. "They have a building permit to make the back part of their business available to be occupied. They haven't called for an inspection yet, but their permit is good for another three months. As far as the building code is concerned, they are OK to operate their business, they just can't have people in the back area."
But, Gilliland said, "they have issues with the neighbors and the neighborhood association has been concerned about it."
"To be honest, we have not been involved at all," North End Neighborhood Association president Don Plum said. But, he said, the association did have concerns about recent incidences of vandalism, littering and late night noise. Plum did not imply that this is the reason the neighborhood association hasn't been involved, but he did say that the association wished the owners of both The Garage and Parrilla Grill would be more involved with decisions in and around Hyde Park.
Goul, however, is taking it in stride.
"I totally understand where the city is coming from," she said. "They're just doing what they have to do and these codes are there for a reason and they can't let us go when everyone else has to do these things, too."
Though the mayor's hotline has had several phone calls urging the city to reopen the bar, Goul says that throughout the whole process, the city has been very supportive.
"We've been here 18 years in February and [the city] definitely took that into account when they were looking at the parking situation, for example," she said.
So, instead of taking issue with the city or pointing fingers at her Hyde Park neighbors, Goul began developing the plans and figuring out the costs necessary for a remodel.
According to city documents, plans for a remodel to be completed by HCD Construction have already been approved and a building permit has been ready for issue since June 28.
With the plans laid and the permits ready, the story would end here, if Goul owned the buildings that house the two spots. Here, unfortunately, the plot thickens.
With remodeling costs reaching what Goul calls "a substantial amount of money," and a lease that expires in September of 2007, Goul must negotiate remodeling costs as well as a new lease with building owner Mary Lou Gentles. As the two parties enter into a third round of negotiations, it's no wonder rumors of the landmark's closure have made their way in to the Hyde Park grapevine.
But for now, both Goul and Gentles are likeminded as to the future.
A tight-lipped Gentles told BW she's not sure whether Goul is in the process of renegotiating her lease or not.
"We're planning to renew it, but we'll see," Gentles said. "Maybe [Goul] has other plans."
As for Goul, she said she has no other plans and that she's planning to renew her lease on the building so long as she and Gentles can reach a reasonable agreement.
"I've tried every angle," said Goul. She's hoping for a final resolution some time within the next month.
"Legally, they can't let me back in there, even temporarily, and I understand that," Goul said. "Regardless of how we got to this point, the fact is that we need to make some improvements, so we just have to take the emotion out of it and do those things and let the rest go."