Main Street Tower, a popular Bel Air restaurant on Main Street known for its seafood and classic Italian cuisine, has been forced to get rid of its rooftop deck tent.
According to Kevin L. Small, director of planning and community development for the Town of Bel Air, changes in the town's building codes prohibit the tent on the roof.
Article 204-3 of the town building code, passed May 20, 2013, prohibits membrane structures on building roofs, citing the State of Maryland Fire and Prevention Code.
Under the code, "temporary cable-restrained, air-supported structures, temporary membrane-covered cable structures and temporary membrane-covered frame structures that would be an alteration to an existing building, would constitute an addition to the height and/or area of any structure or be proposed in conjunction with the construction of a new structure shall be prohibited on any story above the lowest level of exit discharge."
Failure to comply with the town's building code provisions may cause denial of issuance of permits and deemed guilty of a "municipal infraction" punishable by fine, according to the town's building codes. Each day the violation continues is declared a new offense.
A person receiving a citation for a municipal infraction may choose to stand trial to dispute the citation and fine, according to Chapter I, Article II the town's building code.
Renato Buontempo, who owns Main Street Tower with his brother, Mario, said he was "shocked" to find the Town of Bel Air had amended its building codes.
Buontempo said he was out of the country when the town passed the new building codes. He said he was not made aware of the changes until he went to fill out his yearly request for the tent permit months later in September 2013.
"I didn't know anything until I went to the town with my check in hand to apply for a new permit in time for a Halloween event we were having," Buontempo said. "They told me 'we can't approve this.'"
Traditionally, Buontempo said he would apply and be approved for a rooftop deck tent permit with the Town of Bel Air.
Main Street Tower is the only restaurant on Main Street with an deck rooftop tent, which was added on as a renovation to the building in July 2002.
"Not many places offer fine dining, catering, a bar business and an al fresco—in the shade dining—all in the same building," Buontempo said.
Since the town refused to approve the request for the Main Street Tower rooftop deck tent, Buontempo said his restaurant has missed out on holiday revenue he generally makes from hosting outdoor Halloween, Christmas and New Year's Eve events on rooftop deck.
Buontempo said he has also had to fire several employees, who worked as servers, bartenders and hostess in the rooftop deck area.
"It's my hope that [the board of town commissioners] will change everything back to normal," Buontempo said.