Downtown area residents concerned about the opening of a new restaurant at the former location of Cafe Montmartre gathered at the Bartell Theatre Tuesday night for a neighborhood informational meeting about the new business.
Along with Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, and the three future owners of the new Underground Kitchen restaurant, more than 20 residents of the area surrounding what was formerly Cafe Montmartre said they were concerned the new restaurant would present the same problems Cafe Montmartre did while it was in business.
Cafe Montmartre formerly occupied a building on East Mifflin Street near the Capitol.
Those at the meeting said the establishment, which Verveer said chose not to renew its liquor license and eventually closed in June 2009, started off as a promising small restaurant but eventually transitioned into a problematic and disruptive location.
Florian Smoczynski, an area resident, said he thought the city’s response to problems at Cafe Montmartre was disappointing. He added he called the Madison Police Department after one particularly disruptive incident and was told, “That’s what you get for living downtown.”
Verveer said there have been some issues with downtown bars in recent years.
“But I can’t think of another establishment that had as many complaints from neighbors as the former Cafe Montmartre did,” Verveer added.
Smoczynski said he hoped the new Underground Kitchen would avoid the same noise problems the neighborhood encountered with Cafe Montmartre. The owners of Underground Kitchen and Verveer said music would not be played at the new location.
“We do food well, and we don’t really want to mess that up with a huge bar,” Jonathan Atwell, one of Underground Kitchen’s opening partners said.
The future owners of Underground Kitchen said the new restaurant would focus on being a more upscale location for young professionals in the Madison area. They said one side of the dining room will be open for lunch, and the rest will open at about 3 or 4 p.m. for dinner.
The owners also said they hope to keep their kitchen open until about 2 a.m. to cater to a late-night crowd leaving work or a theater production.
Verveer said the Alcohol License Review Committee would likely add conditions to the license to make sure the new restaurant does not present the same problems Cafe Montmartre did.
The tone of the meeting shifted after the future owners answered questions about their plans for the location. All those present said they were satisfied with the current proposal as it stands today.
“I really like what I hear,” area resident Charlie Squires said. “I think they’ll be great neighbors, and we’ll be frequent visitors.”
The future owners of the Underground Kitchen said they plan to open early to middle summer this year. Verveer said their license request will go before the ALRC March 17 and encouraged concerned residents to attend if they wished to testify at the meeting.