“Oh, We’ve got Trouble!”

Welcome to RollaMy blog today is about a business that is relatively new to Rolla, Missouri.   A young entrepreneur by the name of Josh Noe, wanted to open up a  business in Rolla.   From articles that appeared in the Feb. 20th, 2013 Rolla Daily News, and an article in The Guidon, a military newspaper at Fort Leonard Wood, Mr. Noe emphasized that he wanted to open up a Family Entertainment Complex with a restaurant, fun indoor games for the whole family, that there would also be a concert stage to bring in bands, and a small bar area for  those 21 years and older.   Time marched on  and the troubles began for Fat Cats, the name of Mr. Noe’s business, using one of his grandfather’s nicknames.

I have  lived in Rolla for almost 2 years now, and from doing some  reading, I discovered that Fat Cats, located off of Highway 72 and behind The Family Center store, is located in the former Magic Lantern Skating Rink.  How long the rink was in operation I don’t know, and how long that  building sat empty until Mr. Noe came in with his business I don’t know.  Mr. Noe doesn’t own the property or the building, it is owned by the Charlotte Barrack Trust  and Mr. Noe is renting space for his business from this Trust.  Surrounding Fat Cats is a residential neighborhood and therein lies the problem.  From 9:00 p.m., until closing, Fat Cats only allows 18 year olds and older into its Family Entertainment Center.  It becomes a bar at that point, and on Friday and Saturday nights live bands perform.  The neighborhoods surrounding Fat Cats are upset by the noise.  I happened to catch the public cable access channel 2 weeks ago and it was a Rolla Zoning Commission Meeting  and they were discussing Mr. Noe’s request for new zoning to allow his business to be designated as a tavern/bar.   I watched as a few of the residents told the Commission about the noise problems they have been enduring.  One family has to send their small children to sleep at a grandparent’s home on Friday and Saturday nights because the noise is so overwhelming!  Another gentleman got up and said how he has called the police department about the noise  and the officers heard the noise from the gentleman’s home, they could see how it was having a negative impact. Another gentleman spoke how he has to rise very early for his job and the noise is interfering with his trying to get a good night’s sleep.  Only one lady spoke in defense of Fat Cats at this meeting.  She shared how she had taken out of town relatives with children there and all had had  an enjoyable time.  She said Fat Cats is wanting to add ping pong tables and she hopes the next time she is there that she can enjoy a cocktail while she plays ping pong.  I chuckled at that because ping pong games and cocktails don’t exactly come to my mind  as ” go together”  activities!  Also, according to Fat Cats’s  rules, alcoholic beverages are not to be in the game playing areas when children are there, so the lady who spoke would only be allowed to enjoy her cocktail and ping pong after 9:00 p.m.

The neighborhood has said they don’t wish Mr. Noe and his business venture ill will, but to  state that it’s going to be a Family Entertainment Center, restaurant, (which it was noted at an April 27th, 2013 Rolla City Council meeting that there is no restaurant at Fat Cats as there is no kitchen, only a microwave, so to claim there is a restaurant is false,) and to learn that the main focus seems to be on getting upgraded to a bar/tavern and to continue to promote concerts, seems like false advertising.

The Rolla City Council, at it’s May 8th, 2013 meeting told Fat Cats  that it cannot be rezoned for the bar/tavern, but that if Mr. Noe and the Charlotte Barrack Trust  file, in 2 weeks time, the proper paperwork that falls in line with the city’s new ordinance regarding Family Entertainment Recreation Complexes, than Fat Cats can keep on serving alcoholic beverages as it has been doing since it opened.  Currently Fat Cats falls under C-7 Zoning that the serving of alcohol is allowed as long as the sales don’t exceed 50% of the restaurant’s gross income.  To me, it shouldn’t have received that zoning as there is no restaurant at Fat Cats!  There is a snack bar or concessions stand, but that is  a far cry from a restaurant.

At the Zoning Commission meeting that I watched on tv,  discussions about a high wall around Fat Cats was brought forth,  to help with the easing of the noise problem.  I couldn’t  find  any information if a wall has been built or not; the city’s fire chief did say that if a wall is built it would have to meet fire code requirements.   Not being one to study zoning ordinances and business codes, it does seem to me that this situation hasn’t been a win-win for anyone.   The facts as I see them:  First, a  family owns a property that formerly housed a family entertainment business that was compatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood.  Second, that business closed and the building was empty until a young man had an idea for putting a new business in the building.  Third, the new business wants  to provide good, clean, family-friendly entertainment and have a restaurant, and  there would be concerts  on Friday and Saturday nights and alcohol would need to be served.    Four, the business doesn’t have a restaurant and  the noise from the concerts on Friday and Saturday nights is unbearable for the residents living near the building.  Six, this type of business isn’t compatible with a residential neighborhood.

It seems to me that whoever gave Mr. Noe the okay to operate his business was in the wrong.  I am not saying that his business is bad, but the location is.  A bar/tavern in a residential neighborhood? If his business were just Family Entertainment, as the former skating rink was, no concerts and no alcohol being served, than there wouldn’t be any problems.   What’s going to happen when any of these residents want to sell their houses  in the future?  Do you think they’ll be able to find many buyers who want to live next door to Fat Cats?  Mr.  Noe should have been encouraged to seek out other empty buildings away from residential neighborhoods as better places to host his business.  In summing up my musings, I think of that song from The Music Man, “Well, you’ve got trouble, my friends, right here in River City, with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for pool!”…but this time the T in Trouble isn’t the specific business, it’s whoever said it was okay to allow it to happen in a residential neighborhood.

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