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Coffee shop parking raises saloon owner’s hackles

Monday, September 15, 2008 by Mark Richardson

It was an interesting choice for members of the Board of Adjustment Monday night. They could see the Emerald City Press coffee shop as either an environmentally friendly, politically correct business or an upstart bar and restaurant that could ruin the neighborhood – all depending on whose opinion they believed. In the end, the board decided to wait a while before making a decision on a parking variance for the small business.

 

To hear the owner tell it, Emerald City Press is the perfect neighborhood coffee shop that wants to expand into a small restaurant. Emily Fleming-Nash, co-owner of the business at 915 North Lamar, described her business as a small coffee shop designed for walk-up and drive-through customers.

 

“We are very eco-friendly,” she said. “We only use recyclable materials, and we want everyone else to use them too. We serve healthy, organic sandwiches and stuff along with our coffee. We support a lot of local vendors in the neighborhood. And we close every night at 7.”

 

Fleming-Nash said her business was seeking a variance to reduce the number of parking spaces needed from 22 to seven, mainly because she wants the business to be primarily walk-up or drive-through.  The facility has no indoor tables, but Fleming-Nash said they want to be able use about 950 square feet of covered parking lot to set up tables for patrons.

 

Enter Ray Canfield, owner of the Shoal Creek Saloon at 909 South Lamar. He told the board that there are severe parking problems on that part of Lamar, and that  Emerald City Press is contributing to them by the way they are running their business.

 

“They signed the lease knowing the city’s parking regulations,” he said. “I’ve talked with the manager of the 7-Eleven (next door to the Emerald City Press), and he said patrons of the coffee shop are taking up his parking spaces and costing him business. The same thing is going on with my bar. We are losing customers because they can’t find a place to park.”

 

Canfield also questioned Fleming-Nash’s motives for seeking the parking variance, noting that if the variance is granted, she will get a beer-and-wine only license for the restaurant. “It could easily morph into something else,” he said.

 

She said the license was only for the convenience of her customers who wanted a glass of beer or wine, and she had no plans to turn the business into a bar. “We do close at 7pm every night,” she said.

 

Fleming-Nash said she had rented the requisite number of parking spaces for her business, which because of the flood plain in the area only consisted of some 500 square feet on the first floor, and office space upstairs.

 

Canfield read off a list of area businesses that had signed a petition against the coffee shop, and Fleming-Nash read off an equally long list of those supporting, with some businesses on both lists.

 

Board Member Leane Heldenfels said that since the business opened in March and had operated so far without tables for its customers, it should be allowed to make the change.

 

However, Board Member Brian King pointed out that there was a discrepancy between the filing and what they were asking, noting that the filing sought a reduction from 40 parking spaces to 9, while the shop owners were asking for a reduction from 22 to 7 spaces.

 

Chair Frank Fuentes asked Fleming-Nash if she ultimately want seven or nine parking spaces. She said seven was her preference, and after some research by staff, Fuentes said because of the way her filing read, nine was the only number they could grant at that meeting.

 

Fleming-Nash requested and received a postponement until the October meeting.

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