A St. John's city councillor is trying to help make one man's dream of opening a Balkan restaurant a reality.

Art Puddister has submitted a notice of motion to amend a city bylaw preventing a Bosnian family from opening a Balkan-style restaurant in the former Sports Bar space on Boncloddy Street.

The man behind the proposed business says he trusts the system and is open to the feedback of council and the community.

"This is a community project, not just a personal project," said Eldin Hesic, who bought the building with the intent of running the restaurant on the ground floor while his family lived on the floors above.

Eldin Husic

Eldin Husic is hoping to open a Balkan-style restaurant in the old sports bar location on Boncloddy Street in St. John's. (Ariana Kelland / CBC)

"I am bringing my family into the city and I hoping that I can find a pace for my family within the community. So I will let the community speak and state their own opinions whether this will be a good idea or not."

Zoning glitch

The restaurant plan was unfolding when Husic encountered a zoning glitch.

The location was given a so-called non-conforming use exemption from residential zoning. Under this exemption, it operated as a sports bar and, most recently, as a clubhouse for the Vikings motorcycle gang.

"What we are trying to do is the complete opposite of what happened there before," said Hesic.

Eldin Husic and sons

Eldin Husic and his sons pose in front of the old Sports Bar building on Boncloddy, where Husic hopes to open his restaurant. (CBC)

Under city regulations, a non-conforming exemption will lapse if a building is not used for a commercial operation for three years. The clubhouse was shut down in 2016 by police and  the spot's exemption expired in June.

Now the building is zoned for residential use, putting the brakes on the plans for the Balkan restaurant.

A motion to extend the deadline

At the Aug. 21 council meeting, Puddister, who is chair of the city's planning committee, put a motion forward to extend that deadline for exemption to four years rather than three.

Council will vote on the motion at the next council meeting.

Hoping to open in March

Hesic says that if the motion fails, he can get out of the sale of the building, and that he plans to open his business in the city no matter what. But he has already begun the work on the Boncloddy location and he thinks it will bring a lot to the neighbourhood.

Husic and Puddister

Eldin Husic and Coun. Art Puddister shake hands after the St. John's city council meeting on Aug. 21. (John Pike/CBC)

"In my opinion, it would be a good idea, it would be an addition and it would add to the colour, to the fabric of the society and would definitely bring some happiness to this place," he said.

He says his goal is to have the new restaurant up and running by March.

With files from Ariana Kelland