What it takes to open a small dive in Dayton

Before posting this- I checked in with Kim at Olive, and with Urban Dive- the restaurant-to-be at the corner of Wayne and E. Third Street in the old Wympee building.

This building has been a restaurant since 1936- and, only because it was closed, was the city able to start changing the rules. Had a new owner come in and done things incrementally- almost all of this would be irrelevant. No handicapped bathroom- no occupancy changes- etc. It’s called the “Grandfather Clause”- and it is like Santa Claus if you don’t want to change a thing.

This is how buildings die from bureaucracy- unless a champion comes along and is willing to fight the lions:

**UPDATE: well… just got a call! Our occupancy is now at 25, appealing for 49 (instead of appealing 15 for 49 and we have been assured we will receive support from Building Services for our full original occupancy. You all rock!!! 4:13pm Jan. 7, 2011 (less than 24 hours from first post, we have progress!!!)

7:30pm January 6, 2011

Olive finally has the permits released to let our contractors loose!!! Yea!!

This is where we need your show of support. We have a hearing on January 12th at 8:30 a.m. to determine our occupancy.

Here’s the lowdown:

* Wympee’s had a Mercantile Designation since 1938 allowing up to 50 people in the building

* Building Services changed our designated to a B2 Use last month without a request to do so

* Wympee’s has never had a public restroom, only one tiny employee toilet room accessible from the kitchen

* Building Services required us to submit drawings with two (2) handicap restrooms to release our building permits to keep an occupancy of 49 (we say 49 because that is the highest occupancy you can have without a sprinkler system)

we at this point argued that the 800 sq. ft. building would be unviable as a business in losing that much square footage, both in kitchen equipment and guest seating loss. We had to remove the existing furnace and will need to spend $6-8,000 replacing the unit with a rooftop system just to make space for one, unisex, handicap accessible restroom. The code allows for one, unisex, with a Mercantile Designation up to 50 people. (which is what we had when we started).

* Building Services accepted our drawing with one unisex, handicap restroom, but has lowered our occupancy to 15 people including staff. We have received our Building Permits to begin construction, but we cannot survive on an occupancy of 15.

* When we submitted our drawings, we asked Building Services if they would contest our request for a hearing for an occupancy of 49. They said they would not.

we proceeded on faith and continued our demo work, knowing that we would have a chance to appeal and be granted back our original occupancy

* This week we were told that Building Services staff were considering suggesting a maximum occupancy of 25 to our hearing appeals board.

this was most unexpected.

So now that you’re up to date… we would like to collect letters of support that show that you, our future guests, support an occupancy of 49 with one unisex, handicap restroom so that we can have on a busy, summer Saturday:

*30 seats inside including counter seating (30) *the original Wympee had 35 stools*

*up to 2 servers, 2 cooks and 1 prep person onsite for busy shifts (35)

*4-5 people standing in line at the take out and ice cream counter (40)

*people walking through the building to the patio or waiting for a table (45)

(note patio seating does not affect the occupancy rate of the building)

Please address your letters as follows:

Board of Building Appeals

City of Dayton

371 West Second Street

Dayton, Ohio 45402

BBA Case No: 11-30-Da


416 East Third Street

Dayton, Ohio 45402

Described as: Olive Diner

To the Board of Building Appeals:

your words of support, feel free to copy the occupancy scenario above to prove that a minimum occupancy of 35 is needed for our success, but based on our original occupancy, 49 is not unreasonable and that 25 is absolutely not enough when staff and walk ins for take out are brought into the equation. Not to mention that 15-25 will keep us from opening our doors.

please be respectful and positive, but also reiterate that: the success of our business is dependent on their decision.

You can send your letter one of two ways:

1. as a general e-mail or as a .pdf attachment to [email protected], we will print out your letter and take it with us

2. a letter sent to the address above (just please also e-mail it to us, and let us know it was sent, so we have a copy)

Thank you all so much for the support you’ve already shown and for any effort you can offer with this. Feel free to forward links to our fan page (to your personal contact lists) and raise our fan count (which is already higher than we could have hoped for at this stage!). We plan to use our success here on Facebook as a small promise of our possible success later!


All of us at Olive

Thank you to everyone who has responded with a letter of support so far!!!!!

Denny Zappin

David Koenig

Scott Waltner

David Lauri

Emily Upperman

Amy Forsthoefel

Ed Rosenberger

Deborah Wallis

Caren Earick

Matthew Siske

Michelle Hammond

Patrick Sage

Karl Williamson

Theresa Gasper

Gretchen Henrich

Julie Westwood

Valerie Hunt Beerbower

Bryan Hunter

Bob Wolfe

Rick Haverland

Cynthia Parsons

Karri O’Reilly

Matthew Lindsay

Rebecca Johnson

Tiffany Whitten

Hillary Ross

Leslie Marsh

Rachel Wolery

Sandy & Michael Bashaw

Tony Barnes

Kelly Testerman

Ken Neufield

Christine Roy

Beth Engelhardt

Sandy Simmons

Karin Manovich

Kathleen Gish

Diane Haverland

Marguerite Merz

Taryn Ward

Sarah Muench

Carmen Osenbaugh

Norm Lewis

Kay Lewis

Wendy Rousseau

Jean Collett

via Appeal for letters and e-mails of support! Okay everybody, it’s time! (1).

We can either keep losing to the suburbs- with their nice sterile white boxes- or we can start making adjustments to codes and regulations It’s time to take another look at the “grandfather clause” and make it more transportable- transparent- and even-handed in its application.

Or- we can continue to let “Inspector Gotcha” get-ya.

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25 Comments on "What it takes to open a small dive in Dayton"

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Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

It is my understanding that there is a long-empty diner next to the late Greyhound Station (driven out by urban liberals who don’t like to be discomfitted by the poor). This bodes well for the fate of the new mirage. Where were all of you when Wmypee and the White Towers were genuine “urban dives”? 

You cry for “authenticity” but your actions bespeak colaborational sterility.


I just have to comment on Donald Phillips’ comment.
I grew up in Boston where we had a wunnerful hamburger joint in Scollay Square called Joe and Nemo’s. Scollay Square was the pits. It had two strip-tease theaters and lots of sailors. Joe and Nemo’s was the pits of the pits. You could have it for a dime with onions or without.
In the 1950s, the pits got ambitious and opened walk-in joints downtown. When I worked for the old Boston Traveler on Avery Street, it was a treat to slip out of the office, go to Joe and Nemo’s next door, spend 20 cents and have a great hamburger with coffee.
On my last visit to Boston, I wanted to go to Joe and Nemo’s. The old place had been urban renewaled. They tore down Scollay Square. And the branches disappeared, too. They might just as well have banned baked beans and put up signs: “Welcome to the New Boston. We’ve changed for the worse.”


I just Googled Joe and Nemo’s and it says it was famous for its hot dogs. Don’t you believe it. The sailors ate the hot dogs’ Bostonians ate the burgers.
But it does tell how they tore down Scollay Square to build the world’s ugliest city hall.

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

Well Mr. Dad, the Metroids have simply reified the totality of their existance into dollars and cents. So what if they’re parties to cultural genocide. Once “Olive. An Urban Dive” is open for business, they too can have cool urban moments like those they see on “Seinfield” or “Sex and the City”; you know–real life.

Jeff Dziwulski
Jeff Dziwulski

I was wondering where Scollay Square was.  I’ve heard of it but never really placed it, geography-wise.

Anyone interested in “old Boston’ (the ‘West End”) should check out Herbert Gans’ ‘The Urban Villagers”.  Great book on an old Italian neighborhood wiped out by urban renewal. 

But, yeah, bad deal about Olive.  Seems like a real run-around.  In the old days in Chicago, the days of the Daley Machine (the first Daley, not the kid) this kind of changing the rules or rigorous enforcement  to mess with small business was a form of political payback for supporting the ‘wrong candidate’.  Support the other guy and the inspectors where on you like flys on shit.  


I’m wondering where “Civil Servants are People Too” is on this one. If you’re reading, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Did the inspectors and the city do nothing wrong here?


Scollay Square was the back of Beacon Hill. It was on Cambridge Street at the foot of Tremont St.
Google “Scollay Square” and you’
ll find marvelous stuff on the Old Howard, Joe and Nemo’s, and the ugly city hall, voted one of the world’s ugliest building and even the ugliest.

Robert Vigh
Robert Vigh

City should respect private property. If someone wants to open a restaurant with no bathroom, no parking and jam it full, please by all means let them. I do not understand why there is an inspector in the first place. As an intermediary step, maybe the city should let people do as they see fit with their property as long as they post a sign that says: Dayton Government does not fully support this property because there are too many chairs.

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

All this hyperventalating over a wheelchair-accessable restroom? Perhaps the city will grant” Olive. An Urban Dive” permission to install a cellar, since you sentiments aver a preference to the dislocation of the physically disabled. Are  you that adicted to bile?


To answer Jeffrey’s question, “Did the inspectors and the city do nothing wrong here?” We haven’t even got to the inspectors yet! This was all about permits and occupancy at the Building Services level. Did they do anything wrong? No. They absolutely enforced the code as it stands today and did not waiver from it, no matter how much evidence and common sense showed that today’s code was impossible to meet completely in this 72 year old, 800 sq. ft. building. We won a variance occupancy of 35 today, though there were legal ways that we could have been granted 49. They chose the most code compliant determination. We can appeal this decision to the state or find a way and the funds to build another handicap bathroom. That’s the rules, and the board followed them to the letter.

Jeff Dziwulski
Jeff Dziwulski

Someone needs to change that red coffe-sack Dayton logo:

Dayton Red Tape

Bureaucrats Wanted

Civil Servants Are People, Too
Civil Servants Are People, Too
@ I’m wondering where “Civil Servants are People Too” is on this one. If you’re reading, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Did the inspectors and the city do nothing wrong here? (Note – I assume that “inspector” here refers to the “plans examiner” which is the technical title for people who issue permits.   The job requires a certifcation from the State of Ohio) This is an interesting case study.   As KC stated, it appears that they followed the Ohio Building Code (OBC) in this case (note – State law, not City codes) and granted occupancy at 35 rather than the requested 45.    The question of “mercantile” vs. “B2” sound like an OBC discussion, rather than a City zoning code issue.    So at face value it is not a “City of Dayton” issue per se.   It is not clear so far what the other options where, or what reasons/limitations were cited for the change from 45 to 35 at the hearing this week.   So it’s hard for me to say what happened there.  What did the OBC require? That said, the part that concerns me most is where Olive wrote that the City staff first indicated support for 45 but then later only supported 25.    If something changed and the people at Olive were not made aware of it – then you have a real issue.    What happened? As I’ve said before, every city I know of will require a public hearing in some shape or form – at least in Ohio.  Sometimes a hearing is just a hearing.    Sometime the law requires us to say “no” to someone.  That is not the inspectors’ “fault” if they are doing their jobs correctly. So the question should always be this: was the process fair, honest, and transparent?   Then we can ask, what were the specific causes or roadblocks that got in the way?      Finally, we can ask – is the problem the person behind the desk, or is it the legally-required process that needs to change?   This is assuming the company or developer did not make any mistakes in the process.   Sometimes people get bad advice from their realtors, architects, lawyers, etc.    Sometimes they… Read more »
Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

Of course liberals shouldn’t be beholden to something as uncool as a building code. They’re exceptional. “Olive. An Urban Dive” is destined to be so cool that MTVis going to transplant the entire cast of “Jersey Shore” to “Olive. An Urban Dive”. The new program will be called “Dayton Bores“.

Snookie can’t wait!

kim collett

Olive is exceptional only in that we are now working WITH the city to ‘map’ the process, as we go through it and are consulting with county and city leaders on where things are working and where things could be better, usually just by pointing out where clearer information is needed for the public, encouraging intra-department awareness and better customer service. We’re not liberal, we’re just a family business doing what works for us. I read code to understand it, not to get out of it. Pleasant insistence and poised passion can get things done, much more than surly grumbling, in my experience anyway. I hope you actually allow people the opportunity to win you over sometimes, I’d like the chance to welcome you in to our little dive and actually make you grin and maybe even entice you to spontaneously say something nice.

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

Dear Ms. Collett,

I bear you no malice. However, It burns my arse that you have the audacity to call this polite middle-class institution a dive. More so, the gutting of Wympee’s interior and the defacement of its exterior (that sign!) is appaling. The wall of silence from the Metroids and Mr. Esratti, who are forever bemoaning the loss or mal-use of significant structures, is telling. None of them lifted a finger in aid to the poor ol’ Wympee building, for whom yours turely, six-hundred miles distant in Brooklyn, appears to be the sole advocate.

Call me what you will, but don’t blame me if you cannot see your reflection in a mirror.


Donald Phillips

Jeff Dziwulski
Jeff Dziwulski

Olive is exceptional only in that we are now working WITH the city to ‘map’ the process, as we go through it and are consulting with county and city leaders on where things are working and where things could be better, usually just by pointing out where clearer information is needed for the public, encouraging intra-department awareness and better customer service.

This used to be called “business process re-engineering (or something like that) in the consulting world, as a way of improving manufacturing processes.  But I guess the same concept applies to services and government.  Good idea, what you all are doing.  As long as local officialdom has buy-in to address the issues you identify.

Jeff Dziwulski
Jeff Dziwulski

…for whom yours turely, six-hundred miles distant in Brooklyn, appears to be the sole advocate….

’nuff said.

(but I guess they could have still called it “Wympee an urban dive” (which it was) (though I think the sign is remaining, no?)

kim collett
This used to be called “business process re-engineering (or something like that) in the consulting world, as a way of improving manufacturing processes.  But I guess the same concept applies to services and government.  Good idea, what you all are doing.  As long as local officialdom has buy-in to address the issues you identify. yes Jeff! we have buy in with two of the commissioners and the county health department is already putting some of our recommendations into play, which has been fantastic to see! And yes also, the signs are staying! to all and the naysayers: We tried so hard to find a way to keep the inside intact but the deterioration was so profound and the thousands of dead roaches (I’m talking buckets full) compacted in the walls and the electrical boxes, the sagging, water damaged ceiling and the haphazard electrical work just made it impossible. The way the wall coverings were installed it was impossible to put back up because you can no longer get replacement parts and they weren’t easy to disassemble. (our chef and I did the entire demo and clean up ourselves). If I could have walked in and just fired it up the way it was it would have saved me and the owner $25,000 jointly and I would have been in operation two months ago (that would have been amazing!). Alas, the damage and neglect were so severe, and the transformation so complete and demanding (and gross to do), that we felt we needed to separate ourselves from the wympee name. (and the original owner’s -the one that built it- daughter contacted us and encouraged us to do whatever we had to do to save it and make it our own! they plan to visit this summer!) dive is just a word. It nods to the history, but in a kind of tongue and cheek way to get across that we’ve updated a real dive, urbanized it, modernized it yes, but the comfort of it, the neighborhood hang out of it, is what we hoped would be understood. Any true dive affectionado… Read more »

Kim, Donald Phillips seems to have turned his own personal distaste for hipsters into a comprehensive worldview, so there’s probably little to be gained by attempting a dialogue with him.
Best of luck with the red tape and the remodel; I’m looking forward to trying out your establishment (even if–horror of horrors–I have to wait a few minutes to use the restroom).

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

Dear Mr. Jeffrey,

Good Heaven… “Hipsters” have nothing to do with anything. It’s a simple impolite-in-middle-class-circles word called hypocracy. You, the Metroids (your ilk), and Mr. Esrati are flying the Jolly Roger and trying to pass it of as the Yellow Submarine. 

Donald Phillips
Donald Phillips

Mr. Esrati, ever eager to please the Metroids and stifle dissent to communal diktat, has censored my ad hominim rebuttal. Please proscribe me. If you haven’t the courage of your petty hegemony leave it to the ‘popular will of the silent majority who hide behind the Mob-O-Meter.

Com’on Mr. Esrati, you know you want to do it. Just think of all the starlings you’ll make happy who you get ride of a screach owl like me.


Pardon my ignorance, but what the hell is a “metroid”?

Jeff Dziwulksi
Jeff Dziwulksi

It’s a reference to the Dayton Most Metro website and forum, to the participants, moderators and readers of that online community (which may exisit in some form in realtime).  Donald was banned from it a few years ago when it was fairly active,


I’m looking forward to becoming a dirty ol man one day….but I hope I don’t turn into a bitter ol man like some guy in  Brooklyn.  Good luck KC!

kim collett

thanks Sully! and good luck on achieving your dirty ol man goals.  :)