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Bar says: Goodbye alley, hello patio

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Dave Dintemann, owner of Johnnie's Bar, 116 N. Main St., with wife Cheryl, said about the tavern's new outdoor area, "Our plan is to be ready for the smoking ban."

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Johnnie's created a 35-foot long by 25-foot wide area of stamped concrete outside its back door, which faces the alley and the Public Safety Building that used to be City Hall.

Dintemann said they'd wanted to spruce up the area anyway, but the architectural concrete represented the first step toward the local bar having an outdoor area.

Workers finished pouring it the week before River Falls Days. The tavern owner said the shamrock in the middle of it hearkens to Johnnie's Irish heritage.

Dintemann said he has a bit of Irish in him, and the two most recent owners were Irishmen.

The next step was gaining approval from the City Council for a license to serve alcohol in the outdoor area.

The Dintemanns presented a plan, and the council approved their request at its meeting this week.

Dave says the plan includes finishing the patio area before the Green Bay Packers' opener Sept. 13. Local musician Fizz Kizer will play before the noon game, hopefully on the new patio.

"That's our goal," he said, "to open (the patio) by then and celebrate with Fizz."

He'd been planning to start construction immediately upon approval of the alcohol license. Especially since the city is in the process of developing a policy for licensing outdoor areas, the Dintemanns weren't sure they'd get the license.

Johnnie's new patio, accessible through the back door, will feature a wooden privacy-type fence that will be either eight or six feet tall. People will be able to exit through the fence gate, but not enter through it.

Dave said at least four tables of four will fit on the patio. He also plans to have an awning-like cover under which smokers can get out of the weather.

In their request letter to the city, the Dintemanns said the patio will have an 11-foot buffer area between the patio's edge and the alley/parking lot. Concrete planters will sit on the edge of the buffer area and serve as barriers between alley/parking lot traffic and Johnnie's patio.

They say the bar will add staff members as needed and surveillance equipment to monitor patio activity.

Dintemann explains that Johnnie's is actually two buildings together - one at 112 Main St. and one at 116. Patrons will access the patio through the back door of 112, a space Dave said used to be a grocery store.

He said his and Cheryl's intent all along has been to implement a plan that accommodates their smoking patrons, and to do it before next summer when the new law takes effect. It will prohibit smoking inside nearly any building, including taverns.

The owners just knew they should get licensed and build it this year. They thought waiting until after things thaw next year would be too late to start.

"We're trying to get ahead of the game," said Dave.

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