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Music Could Return to Westover Beer Garden by Spring

by ARLnow.com — October 27, 2010 at 9:54 am 2,244 52 Comments

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) In August, the county zoning enforcement office told the owners of the Westover Market that concerts and crowds were not allowed at the store’s popular outdoor beer garden. Since then the store has hired a land use attorney, drummed up impressive public support and taken steps to meet the county’s requirements.

Soon, the store will submit plans to the county for building new handicap-accessible bathrooms. Completing code-compliant bathrooms would be the first step toward getting approval to operate the beer garden as an entertainment venue.

Hicks says that the store’s relationship with county regulators has changed significantly since collecting nearly 2,000 signatures from supportive residents and getting nominated for two ABBIE awards.

“The county is now working with us to jump all these hurdles,” Hicks said. “And it’s all because of the support.”

Once the bathroom plans are approved and the facilities are built — at the cost of $25,000 to $35,000 — the market should have all the elements in place to be recognized by the county as a restaurant, Hicks said. Once it receives the restaurant designation, it will be eligible to apply for a live entertainment permit.

In addition to allowing musicians to perform in the beer garden, regulatory approval could increase the allowed beer garden occupancy from the current 9 to nearly 100, Hicks said.

Hicks expects to have the bathrooms built by January, and hopes to get the live entertainment permit soon thereafter.

In an earlier version of this story, Hicks said that plans for the new restrooms had been submitted to the county. However, county official Hunter Moore later told us that the market’s plan for new restrooms have, in fact, not been submitted yet.

Moore also says that more steps may be necessary in order for the market to be considered a restaurant, and thus eligible to apply for a live entertainment permit.

“The County staff remain committed to working with the Westover Market to achieve as much of the owner’s goals as possible,” Moore added. “We realize the community wants it and we want to be supportive of local business, but at the same time they have to play by the same set of rules that everybody else plays by.”

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  • MikeyinCrystalC

    Awesome news. Great to see the community coming together for a local favorite!

  • GK

    Right on! Good people doing something new, fun, and community inclusive. Great news.

    • Lou

      Yeah, kudos to them for opening up the restaurant operation that the county forced them into. More fees for the county, and a small business willing and able to finance $30K to improve their space. We really are lucky to be in Arlington.

      • Vinh An Nguyen

        If you think this is unique to Arlington, you are sadly mistaken. It’s just the way business is done in 21st century America.

      • Burger

        They were a ready selling cooked food there. So how would the county be forcing them to become a resturant?

        • Lou

          Maybe forced is too strong a characterization. The county gave them two options: give up the music, or become a restaurant so you can be properly licensed for entertainment. They county would not budge on that. So now they have to add bathrooms and probably install a bunch of proper food service equipment; three-compartment sink, all that stuff. They might even have to have a food service manager on duty. All kinds of hoops to go through, as the owner said.

          • Westover

            They have been making sandwiches in the back for a few years now, so I hope they already have all the equipment needed to be a “restaurant”. Otherwise the County Officials were just enforcing the rules/laws that are in the books. They are not just picking on the market in this case. Besides it was neighbor complaints that lead to this situation, not just a random Arlington County Bureaucrat wondering down Washington Blvd on a Saturday evening, as most of the county employees seem to live out in South Riding or Ashburn.

          • Lou

            There’s a distinction in food service between serving prepared items that you assemble on premises versus storage, handling and cooking of raw ingredients. I don’t know what their business model is re: food, I’m just pointing out that the county is requiring that they obtain a license as a restaurant because that is the only establishment that can obtain approval for live entertainment in the county. Restaurants are required to have bathrooms at the minimum, and depending on the food plan, other requirements kick in.

            It may have been a neighbor complaint that got this started, but the violations were more complex than the noise complaint.

          • Pigpen

            Lou, the law was there before these people chose to open their business. So in your mind it’s the county that is bad guy b/c these people chose not to learn what the laws were before they opened up shop? Why should they get a free pass from having to obey the same rules that every other restaurant and business has to abide by – because it’s inconvenient since they’re already open, and they shouldn’t have to bother now?

          • Lou

            I don’t have much opinion one way or the other about who is the “bad guy” here. I’m not sure I agree with a one-size-fits-all approach for permitting music throughout the county. But I also care a lot about the ambiance in Westover, and think rules should not be flaunted; it sets a bad precedent.

            Westover has badly needed a music venue since Eric sold Luna six or so years ago. But the beer garden’s acts don’t appeal to me much, nor does the kid-friendly emphasis. Which is why you’re more likely to find me in The Forest than at the beer garden. But there is plenty of room for diversity in tiny little Westover, which is part of what makes it a great neighborhood core.

  • JimPB

    Another reason that Spring can’t come soon enough.

  • Zoning Victim

    The fact that the only way to get any help out of the zoning administrator is to complain to the press, start a petition and hire an attorney to fight her is a sad state of affairs and shows how poorly Arlington County is being run. It’s too bad the County Board members are rarely challenged on Election Day. I’d sure love to see every single one of those big spenders thrown out of office so that we can get some people in there who will at least make sure the county is serving its people.

    • DudeGuy

      ^^^^ Here comes the Whambulance!!!!!!

    • Westover

      While the need to hire an attorney is sad, it is great that a petition and press coverage gets the ball moving in the right direction. The Zoning Board should not take actions based on just a single complain unless it is a totally obvious flub that they have made, but when the community in the form of a petition asks something to be looked at, it is excellent that it gets the attention that is requested. Democracy in action.

      We do need a lot more diversity of party and opinion in the County Board though.

    • Cheryl Hightower

      Well seems like we are moving in the right direction now and the WBG will only be better for it. This issue and others like it have moved the County to begin re-writing the laws that were done more than 50 years ago and are so outdated. WBG is already so close, it won’t be hard.

  • John Gustufson

    This is blantantly unfair to the locals who live (and pay huge taxes to support arlington). Arlington does not need an additional bar playing loud music in a residential setting. If you want that type of setting move to Georgetown.

    • Westover

      I think the music and beir-garten is great, they should just shut down a little earlier than they had been and make some better sound blocking accomidations. Westover is not Georgetown, or even Clarendon, but it is a commercial district right there and anyone that has moved within a block of the intersection of McKinley and Washington Blvd since 1940 knew it when they did.

    • ballston walker

      This is going to be a nightmare for those homeowners who live adjacent to the shopping center which was never designed to be a venue for outdoor, amplified music :(

      • Westover

        They live adjacent to a commercial district that has been there since 1940. If one of those home owners was living there pre-1940 they have a case, but none of them were. The location of the Post Office used to be a very loud auto repair shop. I understand their frustration when the music goes on after 9-10pm, and it should end by then, but they really don’t have much of an argument to get rid of it all together. The Hicks do have a responsibility to put some sort of noise abatement solution in.

        • DudeGuy

          I agree, no need to play music at 10pm at night outdoors, end it before 10pm on a weekend and 8pm on a weekday and you should be set!. As long as it is not crazy loud and people are not throwing stuff in other people’s lawn it should be fine.

      • Nonagon

        ballston walker said: “This is going to be a nightmare for those homeowners who live adjacent to the shopping center which was never designed to be a venue for outdoor, amplified music”

        ballston walker, on the contrary, I live a block from the Beer Garden. I can see it from my backyard. When they used to have music, it was not too loud, and ended early. It is a great place and adds to the ambiance and appeal of the neighborhood.

    • Nonagon

      “This is blantantly unfair to the locals who live (and pay huge taxes to support arlington). Arlington does not need an additional bar playing loud music in a residential setting. If you want that type of setting move to Georgetown.”

      John, I am a local, and pay Arlington taxes. I live exactly one block from the Westover Beer Garden. Before it was disallowed, the music was not offensively loud, and always ended before 10pm, even on weekends. The Beer Garden is a vibrant addition to the neighborhood, and at least the two thousand people who signed the petition agree with me. The owners are working to meet compliance with Arlington laws. What is unfair is one person spoiling the fun for thousands. What is unjust is attempting to close down a valuable business that improves the culture of the area. Anyone who seeks this is going to have a fight on their hands.

      • Skeptical

        “What is unfair is one person spoiling the fun for thousands.”

        If there are actually going to be “thousands” of people attending this venue regularly, there’s the end of my dining in Westover.

        Question: If in order for a crowd of people to have fun, one person has to be made miserable week in and week out, does the “fun” somehow excuse the misery? (Damn that guy for gettin’ away just when we were gonna string him up from a cottonwood!! We were all set to enjoy a good lynchin’!)

        Never mind… I used to enjoy going to Thai Noy a lot, to the point the waiters knew my favorite order, but the “young parents” have decided that every public space in Westover is a playground for their kids and don’t try to supervise them in the least. My last meal there was spoiled by the nerve-racking sight of an eight or nine year old running headlong out of the restaurant, down the sidewalk, back to her parents table, repeat ad infinitum, while the waiter was carrying loaded trays of hot food past my table through the door the deck. No one said jack squat to the little brat. I don’t feel like going back.

        • Nonagon

          Not thousands at one time. And it’s your prerogative to not go back to Thai Noy. Should we close that down too?

        • Joe M.

          It’s called a society. You cooperate for the collective betterment of everybody. If you don’t like looking at your neighbors junk or listening to their noise, you can either move someplace else, or you can petition the Government to give you some relief. The Government has basically ruled in favor of Westover Market and it’s supporters. So you can either deal with it or you can move someplace else.

          I’m actually suprised to see this much NIMBYness from the Arly crowd.

  • Bugged

    Sorry to burst the board-bashing bubble, but the county started investigating as soon as the first letters came in asking them to look into the issue. The petition was not the impetus (not that it hurt). Both sides are being looked at, as they are in just about evey case (despite statements to the contrary by those who just don’t know but want to act like they do.)

  • KateKirk

    If all it takes is upgrading your bathrooms and calling a grocery store a restaurant, perhaps we can look forward to children’s ballet studios being flipped into strip joints in the future…hey, they have mirrors and space to dance.

    Just because the neighborhood parents want to have children and still go to bars like they did in their 20s does not seem a compelling “community” reason to let a business change its essential operation like the market has. Yes, it’s a commercial strip but there’s a difference between a restaurant that keeps its business within its 4 walls and an entertainment venue which essentially forces the interests of others onto neighbors and grocery shoppers who should not logically have had to anticipate a change like this.

    (and anyone who thinks the 9 people/no music thing has been followed is not around on Friday and Saturday nights)

    • Nonagon

      KateKirk said: “Just because the neighborhood parents want to have children and still go to bars like they did in their 20s does not seem a compelling “community” reason to let a business change its essential operation like the market has.”

      KateKirk, be as judgmental as you like against Westover citizens, such as young families, who value having a local outdoor venue for food, beer and music. This community is overwhelmingly in favor of the Beer Garden, and it’s great to see that music could return by spring.

      • KateKirk

        I *am* a Westover citizen. And everyone in the neighborhood has their own back yard as far as I can tell.

        • Nonagon

          We’re neighbors then. Living near so many unique options is what makes Westover a great place to live. I don’t agree that everyone needs to stay in their back yard.

        • Cheryl Hightower

          I think that characterizing the WBG in that manner is so very narrow minded. Yes, beer is served, but also very good food. In fact, the other night I had the sausage and bean soup that was homemade using the organic sausage the market now sells. It was delicious to gather by the fire and enjoy the music, the sound of the kids making up fun games along side, getting EXERCISE like the way kids used to play, parents sharing ideas, concerns, folks connecting and joining at the end of another hard week at a venue that offers a creative mix of appeal at a very very low cost. This is exactly the type of venue we need these days in these economic days of challenge. Most likely these folks would be at home otherwise, couped up and stressed out, not spending dollars that help the local economy!

    • Eslater

      KateKirk said: “Just because the neighborhood parents want …[something] …does not seem a compelling “community” reason…”

      Actually, I think because people in the neighborhood want something does make it a compelling community reason. I’m a neighbor, and I’m glad that the folks at Westover Market have been able to figure out a solution with the county. I look forward to their spring re-opening!

    • 22207

      KateKirk,

      I love taking my son there and it is not because I want to go to bars like I did in my 20′s. So over that. But, I like exposing him to music. He seems to love it as well. I enjoy it because there are other parents there so if he were to make a noise, it doesn’t disturb others. Also, it has a really nice community feel. I enjoy meeting and talking to people there. Everyone has been really nice.

      As for the change, no offense, but what did you expect when you moved near a commercial strip? Businesses come and go on a regular basis. If you didn’t like the idea of something else going in there, you should have purchased a home elsewhere.

  • MIke O’Malley

    I wish we could tone down the anti-County rants here.

    As always the County has to balance competing interests–those who love live music and those who find it irritating, those who like the beer garden and those who complain that it has taken up too much of what was public space. I like the Beer garden, signed the petition, and told a county official that I did not mind the music. But other people do mind–they’re taxpayers too, the county has to consider them as well. Speaking for myself, I really want the bathroom and food prep to be up to code: Food poisoning is no fun at all.

    It seems to me the County heard the voice of the community, and responded appropriately. I really want the Westover market to succeed–I just came back from buying two six packs, in fact.

  • Deb

    The music was not that loud; mostly acoustic guitars – at least when I visited the market. Nothing like what I have experienced in Clarendon on various weekends. The closest homes are on the other side of the parking lot. My daughter has played there a few times on the open mic nights and was received warmly by the folks in the audience and by the Beer Garden owners. I agree that rules must be followed; and I look forward to the Spring. I don’t drink beer but the live music was lovely. Watching the kids dance to the music was also a nice way to relax after a busy work day.

    • Cheryl Hightower

      I agree completely. The music issue is easily resolved with a sound barrier of some sort. It would be simple to errect a barrier screen. It is lovely to see a community come together. Makes us very unique!

  • Flyover Country

    Just a few comments. First, Lost Dog or the Luna Park (space where Stray Cat is now) tried to get outdoor seating put in along the Stray Cat end of the block across the street and got shot down by the neighborhood many years ago. Times change, but regular outdoor music is another matter all together. I like what they’ve done as they found a niche that makes that unprofitable spot work, so that works for me.

    However, if you watch the propaganda the county runs on their public TV station about how they planned their development around the metro stations and left the single family neighborhoods intact to serve that planning purpose, there isn’t the transition in Westover that there is at the metro stops where it steps down and back from the high density to townhouses, to quiet single family houses. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

    Now if the increasing profile of Westover can just close down and drive out the Black Forest Inn that starts serving hard liquor to its regulars at 8am every morning, maybe we’ll be getting somewhere.

    • Lou

      Right, because The Forest regulars are SUCH a big problem around Westover. Get over yourself.

      • Westover

        The Forest regulars, many of whom were around long before most of the current crowd moved to the neighborhood, do bring interesting comments from out of town guests when they visit. Not sure which was better, the bellowing smoke that used to pour out everytime the door was open there, or having the smoking crew hanging out back when I go in the back door to Ayers.

        • Eslater

          Westover said “Not sure which was better, the bellowing smoke that used to pour out everytime the door was open there, or having the smoking crew hanging out back …”

          Non-smoking inside is better, as it gives one the choice of smoking (outside) or not (inside).

        • Cheryl Hightower

          I am happy to live in a community that offers diversity and interest, where folks range in all ways of being.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    This seems like a bad precedent – Most other venues in the county, that have outdoor alcohol service, have indoor service. This place only has outdoor seating and service. I’m generally a big supporter of Westover buisnesses(Ayers is the greatest) but with more restraint with stuff that doesn’t negatively affect a well established neighborhood.

    Lastly – I think having food service has a specific meaning in the virginia ABC regs – that means you have to do a certain percentage of your buisness in food.

  • Bob Smith

    The Forest regulars are the nicest people you’ll meet in Westover. I talk to them all the time when I’m walking the dog. They even bought her a Frosty Paw from next door. Leave ‘em alone. They aren’t bothering anyone and frankly are much less of an “issue” than the 7-11 on the other end or the kids skateboarding at the post office.

    As for music carrying, I live a street over (Longfellow) and it’s not bothersome to me at all. Even with the windows open. I defer to anyone who lives behind the parking lot, though.

    • Cheryl Hightower

      One of the nicest things about Arlington is that it is welcoming to all and that there is something for everyone. In large part, Arlington is home to the young family. I think its great that the WBG provides an outlet for young parents to mingle and get out of the house, have a beer or two and see their young ones dance to the music. If not for the WBG, those folks would likely be at home as who would pay a babysitter for an hour or two. Its a good outlet to support networking among new parents and give them a chance to connect and release some stress.

  • Flyover Country

    Well, first gotta believe that BFI violate current VA ABC law:

    http://www.abc.state.va.us/newsletter/pdf/LicSprSum2009.pdf

    http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2009/09/14/story11.html

    Second, all of the alcohol and drug rehab facilities in the County (of which there a number) get far greater scrutiny from the neighbors and County staff than a place that enables folks to acquire and/or feed the problems that make alcohol and drug rehab facilities necessary. Certainly not the only place to work your way into AA, but an excellent place.

    • Westover

      I might be wrong, but I do not think that Beer and Wine applies here, just mixed drinks. So far the Market has only served beer and wine.

      • Lou

        I think he’s continuing his Crusade against The Forest. Really, if you asked anyone around Westover how to get to BFI, they would probably say to get on 95 and head north.

      • Flyover Country

        To be clear, I support the Westover Market’s effort at creating a outdoor dining and drinking area, but oppose their effort to have regular outdoor amplified music. The Black Forest Inn (BFI) is a restaurant in name only, and would not exist if it didn’t sell shooters to folks that couldn’t make it thru the day unless the had a few by 8am. If you search for a restaurant review or website for the BFI, you’ll find none. We’ll maybe a few on Yelp, but read those and see how they describe it. However, when I did a basic Google search for a restaurant review for the BFI, I did find this:

        http://www.city-data.com/va-restaurants/Forest-Inn.html

        At least the vodka seems to be OK…..

    • Cheryl Hightower

      They are fully licensed to serve beer and wine.

  • YTK

    Well yes, every beer garden needs a bathroom……

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