Thursday, August 12, 2010

the other side of the Big Bear controversy: it`s simply a quality-of-life issue

From a Bloomingdale resident who lives near the Big Bear Cafe.

I am not asking you to agree, but to simply consider the side of those directly affected on the issue of whether to turn BB into a bar. The individuals who object, as well as those seeking a voluntary agreement, are residents who live within a block or so of BB, and, contrary to current mischaracterizations, are a cross-section of the Bloomingdale neighborhood. We are black, white, Asian; we are young, old and in between; we are single, married, married with children and retired; we are generally well-educated.

Our concerns are:

1. BB is zoned residential because it is in a residential area with houses on two sides and a park across the street - a coffee shop is not inconsistent with the purpose of this zoning, a bar is;

2. BB is an improvement over the former grocery store, but that store did not stay open until 2 or 3 a.m.;

3. As a coffee shop, patrons either walk or park briefly, rather than park and stay to drink;

4. BB has no sound proofing common in bars near residential areas;

5. Litter and trash, which is already a problem, will increase;

6. While not even considered as an issue until raised in a blog, arguably it may increase the property value of homes some blocks away, it will decrease the property value of the immediate neighborhood; and

7. There are 3 other restaurants/bars slated to open shortly in the area, each in a commercially-zoned building with business to either side.

These are my characterizations of the issues, not necessarily of all of those affected, but thank you for allowing this side to be presented. At this point, the matter will be settled by the City and all further action will be taken though that process.


The AMT said...

Quick clarification question: is Big Bear going for a tavern license, or a restaurant license? The implications make a big difference. Under a restaurant license, a much larger percentage of the revenues must come from the sale of food (i.e. not alcohol), while a tavern license carries no such restriction.

If Stu Davenport is going for a tavern license, then this resident's issues carry a lot more weight than if he's simply aiming at a restaurant license, which would by its nature address some of the issues. In the Big Bear location, I have to think a family sit-down restaurant that happens to serve beer and wine (and even cocktails) is a different animal altogether than an out-and-out bar.

ap said...

1. BBC is requesting a restaurant license
2. The BBC will not stay open to 2 or 3 pm whether it serves alcohol or not.
3. People stay for a long time at the BBC now, but most walk and will continue to walk.
4. Only one house abuts the BBC where soundproofing would make a difference.
5. How does beer increase littering? More people coming to BBC? Littering is an education problem, not a beer problem.
6. How do you know property values will decrease? a study on living next to a restaurant?
7. 3 restaurant shortly? I will believe it when I see it. One other MAYBE.

If you had said these are your characterizations, but not necessarily based in fact, that would have been OK. But the problem has been that much of what the opposition has stated has gone from reasonable concerns (noise and hours of operations) to outright slander about a business that has contributed to the social fabric of the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I live way up 1st st(adams and 1st) and I have to admit it would have been a nice thing if BB Cafe would have turned into tavern but the truth is I would have used it as one of those nice things to say about the neighborhood. Reality is I wouldn't have probably gone down there much especially at night. There are still some pretty sketchy things going on at the park across florida ave that would have keep me from going down there after dark. I had a house right across the street from Results gymn on the hill when it first showed up. It was very disruptive, especially parking and traffic. Neighbors just one block away thought it was the best thing in the world but didn't have to deal with the day to day hassel of gym goers who wanted to block drive ways, park illegally or speed while rushing to get to an aerobics class. This was just a gym that didn't serve alcohol and wasn't open till 2am. Just my humble opinion

Stu said...

I appreciate the concerns raised by the resident to the BBC (above). They are expressed honestly and respectfully and address the actual issues involved.

As people respond to this thread please understand that the more aggressive and disrespectful comments are the more the entire process becomes divisive and counterproductive to the interests of both the BBC and the neighborhood as a whole.

The goal is to resolve differences and address issues between us.

Open communication and mutual respect is essential if this is to happen.

TheCommiss said...

@ATM--Big Bear Cafe is not going to be a sit down establishment, BBC has already stated they will not have a Wait staff...therefore it will be a self-serve establishment with a musical chairs going on to find a seat.

@AP--they will be able to operate until 1am on weekdays and 2am on weekends.
Soundproofing has more of an impact then just one house. If the sound leaks out of the building it will affect more than one house. Home values could be affected by having a commercial property next door. The value of BBC will increase due to it now being commercial which can definitely have a negative impact on house values in the area. There are two truly sit-down establishments in Bloomingdale already have been approved and construction has begun. The third establishment is the Fire station which is debatable.

@Stu--Thanks for putting that note on this as we work though these issues it is best to be honest and str8 forward on these matters. Thanks for your efforts to encourage people to be constructive!

JustMe said...

I actually appreciated that explanation of the concerned neighbor, though I think most of those concerns can be addressed or are not going to be a big problem, especially in the case of an establishment getting a restaurant license.

Shorter Barry: The BBC won't be a sit-down establishment; people will go in there and sit down.

Barry has also expressed consistent anger at the prospect of people in Bloomingdale eating past the curfew he has imposed on them.

JohnDC said...

I'm pleased that Rustik & Boundry Stone are coming to our neighborhood and plan to frequent them regularly.

I have a been a big supporter of BBC since it opened a few years ago and will continue to be. I doubt BBC plans to stay open until 3am, but I hope with a restaurant license they'll stay open past 6pm. I think the added foot traffic will make our neighborhood safer.

I hope Stu is able to reach an agreement with the concerned parties.

karen said...

We live around the corner from BB, and while we would enjoy going over for a beer/glass of wine, I think the concerns expressed are very legitmate. As a home owner, I would hesitate to moving next door to, or across the street from a restaurant/tavern because of noise/trash, even if everyone's best intentions is to limit noise/trash. Could a possible solution be an earlier closing time....perhaps instead of staying open until 1am and 2am, close at 11pm?

TheCommiss said...

@ Justme--I think you are a bit mistaken by my statement, but you continue on! I have no anger whatsoever. What I was trying to convey to you and the public was: people in DC eat earlier than NY! Kitchens in DC close about 10pm where people eat at 7 or 8; in NY the kitchen closes later 11pm or 12, because no one really eats until 8 or 9 at the earliest; in RI they close at 9, because most people eat at 5 or 6. It's not about "my curfew"(your words not mine)'s about the habits of diners in the area and the business model. If your customers are coming into to the restaurant to eat until 8 pm you surely don't have waiters coming on the clock at 5pm. I hope it is clear to you now; it's obvious it wasn't by the sheer fact that I have clarified this multi-times and here the statement is again! I hope you now understand, frankly I'm not concerned about what time people eat, as long as they do. It was truly about the hours of operation and the business model for a restaurant vs. a tavern/bar.

As for the sit-down comment. Sit-down is a reference to full service "wait staff" establishment, which BBC has stated they will not be having. That point needs to be clear with the public. Furthermore, if it's crowded you surely may not find a seat! I state it to be clear on the intentions of BBC so let's be concise in our communications. BBC will not be a full service "wait staff" establishment, i.e. sit-down.

@Stu--you might want to clarify the above point so that the community has a clear idea of the service they can expect at BBC.

C.J. said...

I would like to start by thanking the OP for a nice, concise, and unemotional explanation of the concerns over BBC. Living 1/2 block away myself, I share many of them, but I also support BBC in moving forward with their future plans and am willing to risk an increase in noise and the potential for decrease in property value (I am not convinced that is a certainty) to bring this type of business to our I also am supportive of Rustik and Boundary Stone.

@TheCommiss: In my opinion (and I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong!), it is not the place of the ANC's to force business models onto businesses. Yes, it is true that different cities have different times that they eat dinner. However, this would be something that BBC (or Boundary Stone or Rustik or ...) would discover on their own and would have to plan accordingly for. And it isn't hard for a small business owner to figure out -- how many people do I have spending what kind of dollars on what services at what times? This should sort itself out quickly.

As for the sit-down versus pseudo self-serve models, I have seen both models work very well for a business. An obvious example of the later, check out Eammons (fish and chips place serving beer and wine with no wait staff) in Old Town Alexandria. I don't think lack of a wait staff is really the issue here because it clearly works in some cases.

H Street Landlord said...

I'm really trying to be inclusive, but it is a wonder any business ever opens in this city. Being near BBC is now a drag on values? Huh? If every little consideration is given to every possible problem nothing will ever happen.

The Commis - manne you have a major axe to grind, are you sure this is the appropriate avenue to do so? Put your money up and start something on your own. I'm not a business over everything guy, but this entire discussion is ridiculous. If BBC was problematic that would be one thing, but this business does not cause problems.

Anonymous said...

Why do you believe litter and trash will increase because drinks are being served in glasses that cannot be removed from the premises?BBC patrons do not litter. The shop serves coffee in paper cups, which I rarely find littering the streets of Bloomingdale. Rather, what I see EVERY day includes: bottles of Courvoisier/Patron/Remy/MD 20/20/vodkas of all kinds/malt liquor, Budweiser cans & bottles, McDonald's cups/wrappers/bags, other fast food trash, candy wrappers, chip bags, styrofoam containers from the Chinese take out joint frequented by drug dealers, hundreds of chicken bones from the Chinese take out joint frequented by drug dealers, various soft drink cans and bottles and 7-11 cups, discarded drug baggies, medical waste bags, dog shit, PEOPLE shit, etc., etc..........

Stu said...

JohnDC and Karen-

I agree with the comments on hours. I live a few doors down from the BBC and the atmosphere of the street will have a direct impact on my life. Noise and the character of the street at night are important.

For the next few months we will continue to be in discussions with residents - and later this month we will have professional mediation through the ABRA office to discuss possible solutions to concerns raised.

There will be a status hearing in early September, and we are encouraged to continue to talk and negotiate outside of the ABRA process to come to compromises of our own. If we cannot come to an over-all agreement there will be a protest hearing with the ABC Board and the final license details or the issuance itself will be determined then.

Even if the BBC gets a license it will only be the beginning of all the work we need to do. In the mean time we are looking to get temporary licenses in the coming weeks so that people will be able to see what the BBC will be like in the evening. People will be able to sample items on the menu. They will be able to try the beer and wine from local brewers or distributors. And they will be able to see possible issues we all will face by being open in the evening so that we can work to find solutions.

We are working hard to make sure this is a very good thing.

TheCommiss said...

@C.J.--yes you are correct. However, it was a question around hours of operation of a restaurant vs. a tavern; in the hopes that some common ground could be found between BBC and the community. Does that make sense to you why I pointed this out? You have to note that BBC is in an R-4 vs. C-A-2 surrounded by homes. As for the service model, I agree. Most "seat and serve yourself" establishments apply for a DR (Beer and Wine) and as I recall that is exactly what they have at Eammons; I suggest the same to BBC, where as another point on which could be a good compromise.

@Hstreetlandlord--No axe to grind! It's been a long hard road to get clear of what is being asked for? I have said over and over, BBC has been a good thing for Bloomingdale! However, issues with zoning and the communications of the plan and presentation, along with applicant being a fellow commissioner, make it very difficult for the ANC. I am very pro small business; I owe two small businesses myself.

@Stu--Thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

stupid crackas, get out of my hood!

Anonymous said...

anon 3:08,
fool, you can't insult white people that way. they laugh at words like "cracka."