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Little Woodrow’s on Burnet survives two-year fight to serve alcohol

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

It certainly wasn’t easy, but the Little Woodrow’s bar on Burnet Road now has the right to serve alcohol.


The City Council granted an appeal late Thursday, permitting liquor sales and a waiver that allows parking closer to residential buildings than otherwise allowed. After a lengthy discussion the Council approved that appeal in a vote of 4-3, with Council Members Laura Morrison, Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley voting against the appeal.


Plans for a new Little Woodrow’s have been in the works for almost two years, with extensive public discussion at every turn. Last March, negotiations and compromises about hours, noise and configuration of the space led City Council to approve a zoning change for the property.


But in December, the neighborhood successfully opposed a conditional use permit that is required in order for the bar to serve alcohol. Despite offers for more concessions, the Planning Commission sided with steadfast neighborhood concerns about parking, noise, and the impact of a bar on the neighborhood.


Owners Rick Engel, Joe Longaro and Jimmy Nassour appealed that decision to City Council Thursday night, asking for reconsideration of the denial of the conditional use permit for 5425 Burnet Road.


In the original agreement with the neighborhood, Little Woodrow’s agreed to reduced closing hours of midnight Sunday through Wednesday, 1am on Thursdays and 2am on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays. Engel said that the original compromise on hours of operation was a “large give,” and noted that all of his other four locations operated until 2am.


But, faced with ongoing push back from the neighborhood and concerns from Council members, Engel agreed to limit those hours further: to a closing time of 1am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.


Following the Planning Commission’s conditional use permit denial, Engel modified parking plans that had concerned the commission, changing the street parking to parallel parking. Previously, patrons would have backed into the street.


That change reduced the overall number of spots slated for the project, which still meet parking space requirements, but concerned the neighborhood.


Nassour, who owns the property, told City Council that a rear building that neighbors doubted would remain storage would, in fact, remain storage until parking was found. He said that, if necessary, he would raze one of the buildings on the property to accommodate parking. He said that the property had been pulled from the market in the interim.


Council later extracted a promise from Engel that he would provide 52 spaces, instead of 41. They also asked that a Residential Permitting Pass program for nearby streets be expedited by the city.


Engel said that they had selected the site because of the demographics that it would serve, as well as the growth in the area.


“Out of all of the locations I have, this one has certainly gotten the most attention,” said Engel.


Many neighbors stayed late into the night to speak against the appeal. They asked Council to deny the appeal, and preserve the character of the neighborhood, and maintained that while Burnet Road may be a suitable location for a bar, the lot in question was not.


Allandale resident Rob Robinson stressed that they were not against development of bars.


“There’s good development and bad development, and there are good bars and bars you don’t want in your neighborhood,” said Robinson. “We don’t want a Little Woodrow’s bar.”


“I think we’re all struggling with this one,” said Council Member Mike Martinez, who said he was troubled by some of what he heard from the neighborhood.


“We entered into conversations about what you wanted in this facility, when in the end you say, ‘It’s just not right. You shouldn’t do it.’ You should have said that all along instead of writing conditions to be met. Because that gives the indication that there is somewhere we could possibly get where it works, where there is some compatibility. So, that’s troubling to me,” said Martinez.


“This has been a difficult case from the beginning,” said Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole. “It’s one of those cases where I feel we just need to move forward.”

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