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Fight for Your Right to Party 

Riverside Market riles neighbors

As Bend's oldest neighborhoods continue to grow and adapt, not all of those changes are welcome. One such growing pain is emerging in the Old Bend Neighborhood, where the Riverside Market and Pub's popular patio scene is rubbing some neighbors the wrong way.

Once a corner store of sorts, Riverside Market still has a convenience store component. But the market has expanded over the years to become more of a bar environment, with a full liquor license and a basic menu featuring pub favorites like grilled cheese and tots.

And while the market/bar has a consistent crowd of regulars who frequent the establishment's outdoor seating area—complete with corn hole, basketball, and a fire pit—some neighbors say the business has outgrown its residential zoning and conditional use permit.

The most recent conditional use permit for Riverside Market dates back to 1997, when the owners sought approval for a small language school to meet in the space. Since that time, it has added full alcohol service and expansive outdoor seating, gaining a large—and sometimes rambunctious—clientele.

Though the neighborhood is zoned RM—Residential Medium—the market was grandfathered in with its historic use. But that zoning does not permit a restaurant or bar outright. To continue in that vein, the current owners need to secure a new conditional use permit to cover the way they've been using the space since they purchased the property in 2010.

They have an application in with the City and appeared before a hearings' officer on September 15. However, the record remains open because the site plan submitted by the applicant failed to meet City code, and as such could not be evaluated by the hearings' officer.

According to City staff, the property had been used as a grocery store starting in the early 1930s. In 1997, the City approved a conditional use permit—essentially giving the owners permission to use the property for something other than what the zoning allowed outright—for evening language classes. Shortly after the approval, ownership changed hands.

Two years later, the space was being used for music performances, volleyball games, and as a residence. Following a code complaint, the City ordered the owner to stop the musical events. By 2000, ownership once more changed hands.

Fast forward to 2015, and the market received another code enforcement complaint, this time about the building's use as a restaurant, a non-conforming commercial use. In order to continue offering that service, the City told owners they would need to apply for another conditional use permit to continue offering food and beverage service.

As of September4, the City had received ten letters opposed to issuing the permit, and three in support. Those opposed expressed concerns about noise, garbage, parking, smoking, the alcohol-driven nature of the business, and effects on neighborhood property values.

One neighbor, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, shared video with The Source that shows patrons gathering to smoke on neighborhood sidewalks (since Riverside's recent ban on smoking on its property), shouting and swearing, and what appears to be the dumping of kitchen grease into a storm drain.

"It's grown and evolved into a bar," the neighbor explained. "The main concern for the neighbors is we don't want an alcohol-fueled business in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Bend."

The neighbor pointed out that to allow a residential zoned property to operate as a commercial business—in this case, a bar—sets a precedent for other businesses that have been grandfathered into residential areas, including those zoned Neighborhood Commercial, like the nearby building that houses an antique shop, The Iron Horse, and is currently for sale.

He noted that as of August 31, more than 250 police dispatches have been sent to the Riverside since 2010. Those calls include 48 noise complaints, 27 drug and alcohol related dispatches, three assaults, and documented harassment of neighbors.

But not all neighbors are opposed to granting Riverside Market's request. One member of the Old Bend Neighborhood Association (OBNA) submitted testimony to the City asking that the permit be approved with the condition it remain smoke free, and calling out his fellow neighbors for protesting.

"I live about one block away on Riverfront Street and go to the market regularly. In various incarnations, it has been a fixture in the neighborhood for many years," wrote OBNA board member John Kelly. "I find it offensive that people move into a neighborhood and then want the neighborhood to change... My only problem with the market was that they allowed smoking, but that changed at the beginning of July, and it has now become even more of a neighborhood institution."

Riverside Market management were not available for comment before press time, but have encouraged their patrons to write to the City to show their support.

There is no question that the Riverside Market and Pub has become a local hot spot. The degree to which neighbors appreciate its current incarnation appears to depend on what they think the neighborhood should look and feel like. Most neighbors reiterated that they don't want to see the Riverside go out of business, they just want it to shift away from an outside bar setting, to a quieter family-friendly gathering place.

"While we are not against the Market having food service with outdoor seating," says neighbor Brett Yost in his comment to the City, "we are not comfortable living next to such an alcohol-driven business as the Market has recently been."

About The Author

Erin Rook

Erin is the Source Weekly's Associate Editor. Before moving to Bend in 2013, Erin worked as a writer and editor for publications in Portland including PQ Monthly and Just Out. He has also written for the Willamette Week, El Hispanic News, Travel Portland, OUT City, Boston magazine and the Taunton Daily Gazette...
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