The key community items on the agenda were the Bavarian Beer Garden (8th & L Streets SE) HP case and the VAs for Nooshi and Moby Dick restaurants (524 8th Street SE). Both located within 6B04.
On the historic preservation issue, I tried to convince my fellow Commissioners to cause a month delay in the HPRB hearing on plans for a rather unusual building proposed to house the new Bavarian Beer Garden. This delay would provide the HP office staff more time to work with the owner and architect to assure the new building would be “compatible” with its surroundings (the requirement for new construction in a historic district). But, I failed to convince more than 2 of my fellow Commissioners. In the end, the Commission voted 7-3 to support the plans with some concerns noted.
My concerns about the design? Proposed is a one story building next to 2-story and 3-story historic buildings; a confusing statement of presence along 8th St SE, part of a two block segment of Barracks Row that already lacks any pedestrian level interest; two entry doors out of proportion to 3 large windows; no information provided about materials to be used except for and overuse of wooden rain walls; the “deconstructed” (CHRS description) tower at the corner; and on and on. In my view, the building begged for more simplicity to let its industrial style shine. BTW, the Vision for the Lower 8th report asks for “meritorious” developments in the area that “respect historic structures.” I do not think this design meets that standard either and, as such, sets a low standard for what may be proposed for other lots in the area. Hopefully, the HP Office staff and members of the Historic Preservation Review Board will still have time to provide appropriate design critique when they review the application on February 24th. Anything is not better than Nothing.
While it wasn’t germane to the historic preservation issue, I am also concerned about the roof deck facing 8th Street SE that the owner sprang on the Commission with the building design. At no time during all the discussions on the application for the liquor license was the Commission informed about this aspect of the Beer Garden operation. Not being informed otherwise, my expectation was for an open area at ground level from which all the noise (loud voices and oompah band music) would be generated. The building design includes such a ground floor space on the L Street side of the building. But, a roof top operation will disburse noise in different ways. The Commission did express concern for the safety aspect of this open area.
The Voluntary Agreements for Nooshi and Moby Dick were approved by the ANC. Late last year, the ANC voted to protest these two liquor license applications, based on several factors including over concentration of licenses in the 500 block of 8th. A residents group also formally protested. Not mentioned at the ANC meeting was that the Commission had VA documents to vote on because the residents had decided not to fight this one to the bitter end. The owners’ lawyer had said during ABRA negotiations that he would advise his clients to not sign an VA with the ANC unless the residents group also acquiesced. Granted, it is the concessions that the restaurant owners agreed to which enabled the residents group to drop its protest, albeit reluctantly. I thank the residents for taking the difficult step they did on these applications. I do not expect this to be precedence setting, however.