Martinsburg considers use of alley for restaurant seating

MARTINSBURG – A request by a Martinsburg restaurant owner to turn a borough-owned alley into seasonal seating raised a number of legal questions for authorities this week.

Borough Council members agreed Monday to delay a decision, pending attorneys’ advice, on a plan to add seating for Mamie’s Cafe in a neighboring public alley. Karen Wyland, the popular restaurant and bakery’s owner, and the Martinsburg Revitalization Committee have sought permission to install a temporary deck and seating in the alley, which also borders a Subway restaurant.

While council members seemed to agree that Mamie’s – which draws large crowds on weekends – is an economic boon to the borough, some expressed concerns that the deck could pose a lawsuit risk unless officials turn the entire alley over to the building’s owner.

“There’s a liability issue. … I just think you should be careful,” solicitor Matthew Gieg told the council.

If the borough keeps the alley but allows a private business to build a structure there, a customer who injures himself might be able to sue the borough, some suggested.

On the other hand, if officials decide to cede ownership of the alley, they might have to abandon it – giving half of the space to each neighboring building’s owner – or sell it to bidders.

Several council members backed the idea and suggested Wyland make the deck permanent, rather than seasonal. But the legal questions could delay the process at least a month.

“It’s important enough that you’ve got to look into it,” Gieg said.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.