By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
City council approved development special use permits from Augie’s, Urbano 116 and Charlie’s on the Avenue at its Saturday public hearing.
Council had previously approved Urbano 116 at 116 King St., but the applicants returned to request to add a carry-out window to the front of the restaurant.
The request sparked a lively discussion on the dais about what the overall feel of the lower blocks of King Street should be as the new waterfront park at 1 King St. and the King Street Corridor initiative come to life.
Staff recommended approval of the carry-out window, given that its hours of operation would be 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, that it would not extend outside the restaurant’s encroachment boundaries and that it would install a barrier to separate the queue from the pedestrian right-of-way. The carry-out window would also be subject to a review six months after opening.
When planning commission considered the issue, it recommended that the hours of the carry-out window be extended to match the operating hours of the restaurant, or 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Justin Sparrow of Common Plate Hospitality, which owns Mason Social and Augie’s and is opening Urbano 116, said the concept was exciting.
“We talked internally about coming up with something a little different, something exciting to create an experience not only for our guests, but for visitors and residents on the 100 block. We want to continue to activate the environment,” Sparrow said.
Councilor Paul Smedberg asked Sparrow pointed questions about why the carry-out window wasn’t included on Urbano 116’s initial DSUP.
“It was quite some time ago that you applied, so why is it that you need the carry-out window?” Smedberg asked.
Sparrow said, though Common Plate Hospitality always contemplated the carry-out, he didn’t check the box on the DSUP.
Smedberg asked why carry-out service couldn’t be conducted from inside.
“This is more about the experience. … We can not only capture folks that are walking up and down the street, but also bring folks into the restaurant,” Sparrow said.
Chapman said it’s one of the best ways to build vibrancy in an area of Old Town that has a lot of foot traffic.
“I think one of the areas where we have the most vibrancy is Old Town and I think this invites that,” Chapman said. “If you go into other communities that have that vibrant feel along their sidewalks and streets, you find business owners catering to those folks and catching them as they’re walking by.”
Councilor Del Pepper said, while she was in favor of the restaurant itself, that the carry-out window was inappropriate for the area. Silberberg urged that the hours of the carry-out window revert to staff’s recommendation.
“It sort of feels like what I’ve seen on a boardwalk and that’s fine, but it’s not the feel of that first block,” Silberberg said.
Council approved the carry-out window narrowly, with a vote of 4-3, with Silberberg, Smedberg and Pepper dissenting.
Later in the meeting, council considered Charlie’s on the Avenue, which recently opened at 1501 Mt. Vernon St., and Augie’s, which opened on the porch of 1106 King St. as a pop-up for the summer and is proceeding with a renovation of the interior of the building.
Though Charlie’s has already opened, council also considered its application to take over the former Greenstreet Gardens and make it into an outdoor dining area. The outdoor area would also be used for games, such as cornhole or Jenga.
Attorney Cathy Puskar, who represented owners Justus Frank and Jeremy Barber at the meeting, said the owners had addressed the concerns of neighbors, with plans to install a fence as a buffer. Puskar said the owners wanted to install an outdoor speaker at the dining area that would be in compliance with the noise ordinance.
“If we want to bolster our business community, there have to be compromises both in terms of the businesses and in terms of the residents. That’s what the Mt. Vernon Ave. Plan encourages: vitality,” Puskar said. “Maybe this is the first one we try and see how it goes.”
Silberberg was against the request for amplified sound.
“I think we have to be mindful of the impact,” Silberberg said. “A number of businesses operate and do well and they haven’t had outdoor music. … It’s all about a balance between business and existing residents.”
Other councilors, however, expressed support for trying the concept out.
“Business is changing, business is becoming more competitive and I think we need to look at how we adapt to that change, that competition,” Chapman said. “There’s validity in making sure we protect our neighborhoods, but there are opportunities on our main business corridors to change the dynamic there.”
Wilson said, ultimately, the city’s noise ordinance would need to be modernized.
“You could conceivably have a retailer on Mt. Vernon Avenue that has no SUP, they’re a by-right retailer, they could have a loudspeaker on the back of their property. As long as it doesn’t exceed noise level, you could operate that and the city couldn’t do anything about it,” Wilson said. “We have these two sets of laws – I think revision of noise ordinance is the way to fix that.”
Council voted to approve Charlie’s application, with no amplified sound audible after 9 p.m., by a 6-1 vote, with Silberberg dissenting.
Council also approved extended hours and outdoor live music for Augie’s at 1106 King St. at the meeting.