By Will Greenberg, Daily News Editor
Published September 3, 2014
Due to an unfortunate oversight, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority lost a night out for drinks.
The DDA canceled a scheduled meeting Wednesday night after two Michigan Daily reporters were denied entry to the scheduled venue. The city’s official online calendar listed a DDA meeting for Wednesday as a “DDA Chair’s Gathering” at Bill’s Beer Garden on Ashley Street. However, the restaurant only allows customers of legal drinking age, unless a parent accompanies them.
DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said the gathering was only intended to be a social event. They decided to post the meeting online in case there was a full quorum and she said it was not intended to include work for the DDA.
“It was just supposed to be a beer,” she said.
Pollay said the gathering was organized by DDA member John Mouat. Because the restaurant allows children accompanied by parents, Pollay said the group didn’t realize there was a policy restricting minors and that it “wasn’t on their radar.” No one requested a special arrangement to allow the full public into the restaurant. Had the meeting taken place, a significant portion of the University student body would not have been allowed inside.
Two Daily reporters arrived at Bill’s Beer Garden but were asked to leave because they were younger than 21.
Staff members at the restaurant suggested at one point that they would let the Daily reporters in, but said it would be too difficult to allow unaccompanied, underage patrons to attend the meeting since it would be too hard to remove them afterward. Pollay said she then contacted other DDA members, and at about 5:30 p.m. the meeting was canceled to avoid “disenfranchisement” of the Daily.
It is unclear exactly why the members felt they needed to list the gathering as a public meeting on the city’s website when it was only intended as a social event without any DDA work. However, Michigan's Open Meetings Act requires all meetings that meet a quorum of members to be open to the public.
The DDA is one of the most active and important committees in the city, working to promote economic growth and activity in downtown Ann Arbor. In recent years, the DDA has taken criticism for having too much influence over the City Council’s priorities, overshadowing the needs of other neighborhoods.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misstated the nature of the Open Meetings Act. It is an act of the Michigan legislature, not the state's constitution.