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Adios, Parkside

by Rick Thomas
| April 15, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - It's over. More than likely, for good, but for a week or two at least. The lease ran out at midnight after one final night of music and beers Wednesday at Parkside Bistro & Pub and the chances that it will reopen are slim.

COEUR d'ALENE - It's over. More than likely, for good, but for a week or two at least.

The lease ran out at midnight after one final night of music and beers Wednesday at Parkside Bistro & Pub and the chances that it will reopen are slim.

After negotiating with City Hall for months, Parkside owner Kevin Eskelin is still hoping state and federal agencies will give their permission to allow the popular watering hole at City Park to operate one more summer.

But starting today, the place is closed, just as patrons were beginning to enjoy the draw of its sidewalk seating.

"I think it's terrible," said North Idaho College student Shea Doerfler of Post Falls, sipping beer with friends outside on Wednesday afternoon. "It's a part of Coeur d'Alene."

Richard Kuck, Eskelin's attorney, says there are different interpretations of the vague descriptions of the boundaries of the property, but he is awaiting approval from the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which provided funds for the park and does not allow commercial operations, to approve one more summer.

But Kuck is not hopeful.

"Parkside is done now, or it's done in October," he said. "We have to convince them we are right. Kevin is out of there. He is done. The only thing we're asking is that he can run it through Oct. 1."

The City Council voted approval for that, pending confirmation from the fund stating park funding will not be jeopardized.

"We left it last week for the attorney or the owner to get that information to the office by today," Councilman Ron Edinger said on Wednesday. "We have not received anything."

Breaking the rules and allowing the commercial operation could cause problems for other cities, Coeur d'Alene city attorney Mike Gridley said.

"It is bigger than (the grant money received by Coeur d'Alene)," he said. "If there is a commercial operation in a Land & Water Conservation area, it would be deemed to have been converted to private property. We would have to appraise that portion of the park, which I assume is astronomical. It puts every other park grant approval on hold because of noncompliance. It could jeopardize the entirety of projects in Idaho."

The city went to bat for Eskelin two years ago, Gridley said, and got permission from the state to allow him to stay, as a way to keep both parties from spending a bunch of money fighting a legal battle.

The city has no option to allow the operation to continue, he said, "unless he comes up with something that will untie the city's hands."

Kuck said the old block building, built in the early 1950s, may sit outside a "mythical line" drawn on the north side of the park when the Milwaukee Road railway granted a right-of-way to the city in 1969.

"The city did a fairly junky job," he said. "It is a hand-drawn pencil line."

Eskelin is hoping for the best, but will shut down and move perishables out of the building while waiting for authorities to decide his fate.

"I'm convinced Land & Water Conservation will not be a problem," he said. If it is a problem, "If I close, I'm bankrupt."

The fate will be sealed quickly, Gridley said, with the building demolished quickly after Eskelin moves out his personal property.

"It is really unfortunate," said Danielle Bell, formerly of Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene and making the once or twice a year visit she has done for 20 years to Parkside while visiting from Portland, Ore., on Wednesday. "When I came to Coeur d'Alene, this is where I came. I was amazed when I heard. It is in the city's interest to keep this place alive."

Scott Hickey, another NIC student who turned 21 last year and enjoyed Parkside all summer, agrees. When in high school in Missoula, Mont., he frequently visited the college for sports camps.

"This is what I remember Coeur d'Alene for," he said. "It is such a sweet spot, next to the park and the beach."

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