The Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals has been ordered to take another look at a variance request for The GOAT restaurant and tavern.
Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Brown issued a ruling July 12 that vacates the April 26 variance denial and orders the BZA to conduct a new hearing on the matter.
Brown agreed with Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, who issued an advisory opinion July 2 that BZA members did not comply with the state’s Open Door Law when they approved the findings of fact to support their denial through email rather than in a public meeting.
“The processes of approving or denying variance petitions, rezoning property, and changing ordinances, all require transparency by our elected officials,” Brown stated in the order. “Additionally, the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals, just like other public agencies, are subject to the provisions of Indiana’s Open Door Law.”
The City of Carmel released a statement July 13 announcing that the BZA is considering filing an appeal of the order. It has 30 days from the date of the order to do so.
“In his order, Judge Brown essentially repeated the position taken in the advisory opinion of the Public Access Counselor. The BZA’s decision to deny the GOAT’s use variance was made at a public meeting after a full and open public hearing. While the Indiana Code requires the BZA to make written findings of fact, it does not specify how those findings are to be made,” the statement reads.
The judge’s order does not allow The GOAT to reopen, as it stated that the business is subject to existing zoning laws. Without a variance, a restaurant is not permitted to operate there.
Kevin Paul, owner of The GOAT, did not respond to a request for comment.
The BZA voted 4-1 against the variance request to operate The GOAT, 220 2nd St. SW, in a residentially zoned area, a decision that led to the tavern’s closure. The site had previously housed Bub’s Cafe, which was permitted to operate through a use variance limiting its hours to between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. City officials said they inadvertently overlooked the variance when they approved plans for the tavern.
The tavern opened in July 2020, and soon after, city officials began receiving complaints from neighbors about loud noise late into the night, urination and vomiting on adjacent private property and other issues. In December 2020, the city ordered The GOAT to abide by the variance granted for Bub’s Cafe but reversed course two days later, allowing the tavern to operate past 2 p.m. if it reduced its hours, provided security to prevent many of the recurring problems and agreed to several other measures.
Complaints sharply decreased in the months before the BZA denied the use variance, but some BZA members said at the April 26 meeting that The GOAT had not done enough to prove it could be a good neighbor.