The city is waiting for the state comptrollers office to advise it whether patrons of Maggies on the River can be served food and alcohol on the city-owned deck overlooking the Black River.
Last week, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham sent letters to state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the regional comptrollers office to get a ruling on whether the city can lease the deck to the owners of Maggies for use by the Newell Street bar and restaurant.
The deck became a source of some controversy after the city paid $80,000 to construct it as part of Whitewater Park and Maggies asked to use it for its business.
Three weeks ago, the matter came up again before the Watertown City Council when Maggies co-owner Reginald J. Schweitzer Jr. made the request again.
But city attorney Robert J. Slye sent an email July 12 to council members advising against the lease until the comptrollers office gives an opinion on its legality. Mr. Slye compared the deck to leasing a city to an entity.
Last week, council members Teresa R. Macaluso, Joseph M. Butler and Jeffrey M. Smith urged the mayor to get the state comptrollers opinion about it.
Its been in lawyer never-never land and I want to get it out of there, Mr. Graham said. Its been dragging along for far too long.
Mr. Schweitzer, who could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon, has applied for a temporary permit from the state Liquor Authority to serve alcohol on the deck until a more permanent solution can be found, city officials said. If the comptroller gets back to city officials, the matter may come up at the Aug. 5 council meeting.
In the meantime, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said Friday that Maggies is the only logical user of the deck, since it is connected to the building. Although the city was wrong to pursue the construction of the deck with public funding because of that situation, the issue should finally be resolved, she said.
Ms. Macaluso said that the city should play it carefully and that she wants to make sure the city is not forced to pay back the state grant money.
I just dont want us to go out on a wing and prayer and find out were wrong, she said.
Ms. Burns said she doesnt see the comptroller coming after the city over the issue.
I cant believe the comptroller doesnt have bigger fish to fry than little old Watertown, she said.
State Department of State officials have expressed reservations about Maggies owners using the deck, saying the restaurant would infringe on the use of the park and the deck, which was designed as a walkway.
The state Liquor Authority also must approve the restaurants permanent application to serve alcohol on the deck.
Last year, the Department of State ruled that the only way Maggies could use the deck is if the city bought the tables. It would have cost about $1,200 each for two or three tables; the city then would have to rent the tables to the business.
At the time, both city officials and Maggies owners expressed their frustrations about the states logic.