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‘Social history’ of cafe to carry on

But permission is finally granted to raze building

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It seems the "social history" of Bill and Nada's Cafe will go on, even if its physical history comes to an end.

Carmack's, a diner with doughnuts, will replace the old cafe, at 479 S. 600 East, sometime next year, said property owner and developer David Coats of Bountiful. "We're trying to maintain the flavor of Bill and Nada's," though the unsound cafe structure will be torn down.

In July the Salt Lake City Historic Landmarks Commission called the cafe a "contributing building," the last holdout from a bygone era of late-night dining. Coats' request to demolish Bill and Nada's was quickly denied. The duplex next door, where cafe owner Bill McHenry lived before his death in 1999, was also ruled a contributing structure. So it couldn't be razed either.

But this week the Landmarks panel changed its mind — partly. Bill and Nada's Cafe is just under 50 years old, so it didn't meet the criteria for a historic, contributing building, the commissioners decided. They gave Coats permission to demolish it, pending his submission of the Carmack's use plan.

Yet "I really struggle with" the prospect of demolition, said commissioner Soren Simonsen. But perhaps construction of a Carmack's on the old cafe site "would bring back the social aspect" of the neighborhood, he said.

Earlier this summer, some residents of the central-city district protested the Carmack's plan, which would include a drive-up window. The diner will be 80 feet from a TRAX stop, neighbor Matt Wolverton noted in June. He and other Central City Neighborhood Council members said they would prefer new developments that cater to transit riders and other pedestrians, instead of drawing more drivers to the already car-clogged area.

The duplex, however, withstood the commission's hourlong discussion. It's a little older than the cafe and was deemed a contributing building. So Coats will have to prove "economic hardship" — that renovating the duplex would be too costly to ever be worthwhile — before he can demolish it. Both buildings must go to make room for Carmack's and its parking lot, according to the developer.

"We could easily demonstrate economic hardship," Coats said. "But that's a long process. It will be done. But it just seems silly." Determination of economic hardship typically takes about four months. Coats added that the Landmarks Commission, by making its decisions slowly, had made it impossible for Carmack's to open in time for the 2002 Olympics. He said he couldn't predict when the first doughnuts would be served there.

E-mail: durbani@desnews.com