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Burnet Road bar seeks compromise with Allandale neighborhood

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

The fight over Little Woodrow’s on Burnet Road isn’t over yet.


Though the proposed Little Woodrow’s Bar at 5425 Burnet Road managed to earn a zoning change in March, the owners still need a Conditional Use Permit to operate. Since winning the protracted zoning battle at City Council, the restaurant and bar has been working with the neighborhood to strike a balance, but concerns remain.


“We have enough bars in the neighborhood,” said Allandale resident Donna Beth McCormick. “We don’t need another bar in the neighborhood. We like our neighborhood to be a family-friendly neighborhood where we know our neighbors. That’s why we live there. That’s why we have a house there.”


Just after midnight Wednesday, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to postpone the case. Commissioners hesitated to delve into the business of crafting an agreement at such a late hour. Little Woodrow’s is seeking a conditional use permit in order to open a cocktail lounge and allow parking less than 200 feet from residences. Conditional use permits are granted by the Planning Commission, and do not need City Council approval.


Owner Rick Engel explained that he had already made many compromises with the neighborhood over the past several months. Currently, owners propose to operate until midnight Sunday through Wednesday, 1am on Thursdays and 2am on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays.


They have also agreed to a City Council zoning condition that divides the building into a standalone pizza restaurant and a bar, so that Little Woodrow’s bar will only comprise 1,830 square feet of the 4,000-square-foot building and a patio.


The executive committee of the Allandale Neighborhood Association voted to oppose the conditional use permit unless their eight conditions are met. These conditions would prohibit all live music, and “any outdoor noise-generating activity after 8pm.” The neighborhood also asks that all exterior openings of the building be closed at 10pm, that trash pickup occurs during regular business hours, and a loading zone is established. The neighborhood would prohibit all outdoor audio and visual equipment, excluding high-quality security video which would be required and retained for at least a month.


The conditions also include limiting the hours further to a midnight closing time Thursday, and 1am closing time Friday and Saturday nights.


“I think the late night hours are a nuisance. Operating until 2am, having people out wandering around at that time of night in a community that is said to be respectful of children is a risk. It’s a big concern,” said Steve Zettner, who is the president of the organization Sustainable Neighborhoods in North Central Austin.


Engel explained that the currently proposed hours were already the result of a compromise. Though he seemed unwilling to change the official, he explained that he would be willing to close the bar earlier if “the business warrants it”– a practice that he said he employees at Uncle Billy’s on Barton Springs Road. Uncle Billy’s technically has a 2am closing time but often closes earlier.


At the time the case was postponed it was unclear what conditions would and would not be acceptable. The Planning Commission is expected to address the neighborhood terms in greater detail at its Dec. 10 meeting, but it remains unclear whether the neighborhood will embrace a whittling down of their conditions.


Allandale Resident Joe Reynolds asked omission to deny the permit, saying it didn’t meet “the common sense requirements for such an establishment in this location.”


“Those of us in Allandale are seen as aggressive for protecting our neighborhood. We do that because we do live in a neighborhood,” said Reynolds. “These are not Pflugerville boxes where you drive up, push the button, pull in and the door comes down and you are never seen again. We have porches and we use them. Our yards are family and social spaces… We’ll lose our residential rights to do those things when strangers park in our front yard and noises intrude.”


“We as residents have existing rights to use our homes. The proposed bar will trample those rights. State law and city code gives potential rights to the applicants. Little Woodrow’s can relocate to a more suitable place and start a business. We can’t relocate,” said Reynolds.

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