The owners of Main Street Tower in downtown Bel Air are still working on a plan for a permanent enclosure of their signature rooftop deck, a year after the town forced them to take down temporary tent that had been used during colder months.

Tower co-owner Renato Buontempo said last week he is still negotiating with the town regarding the roof situation.


Buontempo appeared before the Harford County Liquor Control Board last November, when he explained his plan to permanently enclose part of the deck and add rest rooms. He said he wanted to let the board know what they were planning, subject to town approval, adding at the time: "I don't want to get in trouble with the town."

Adding a permanent deck, however, would push the restaurant over 7,500 square feet, which requires a special development approval, town planning and zoning director Kevin Small said.

The special approval is required for commercial and industrial businesses exceeding that square footage, he said.

Buontempo said he hopes the deck will preserve the type of clientele that the temporary tent, which the restaurant had for years, always attracted.

Most importantly, it will help the restaurant operate year-round for events like St. Patrick's Day festivities, he said. The restaurant added an outdoor patio in 2013 to the side of the restaurant, next to the new town parking lot off Main Street. There is an agreement between Buontempo and the town covering the patio, which is not enclosed.

The same year, town commissioners passed an amendment to the building code prohibiting the erection of membrane structures such as tents on building rooftops, citing the state fire code. The town later asked the Tower's owners to take down their tent, for which the town had been issuing 180-day permits for over a decade. They reluctantly complied.

"The upstairs is a different crowd than we have on the main floor," Buontempo said, explaining the downstairs area attracts people who are more interested in "fine dining," while the outside areas draw a younger crowd.

Small said the town has not approved anything yet for the Tower's owners, with regard to a building permit.

The town would definitely have no problem with a permanent enclosure on the deck, he said.

"We would love to see it happen. We think it would be a very nice addition to downtown," he said. "I think the folks at Main Street Tower are excited about that."

Buontempo said he is optimistic about working out the situation with the town.

"We have been in the town of Bel Air for the past 25 years and dealt a lot with them," he said. "It just didn't make [any] sense last year about changing [to forbid the tent]."

Nevertheless, he added, there are a lot of politics and steps involved.

"Certain things can't just happen overnight," he said. "Soon it's going to happen."