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Westover Beer Garden Update

by ARLnow.com — April 5, 2011 at 9:40 am 2,430 69 Comments

The Westover Market is moving forward with plans to make its popular beer garden conform to county regulations.

Arlington County recently approved a building permit that will allow the market to build Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms — one step in the beer garden approval process. The other step will come on May 14, when Westover Market goes before the county board to ask for a live entertainment permit, which is necessary in order for the beer garden to host musical acts.

At the moment, the market is only permitted to seat nine people in the beer garden, which used to host large neighborhood gatherings.

Not everybody supports the market’s effort to become an entertainment and drinking venue, however. Before the county clamped down, a cadre of anonymous complainers would call authorities to kvetch about noise from the garden and smoke from its fire pits.

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  • Lou

    Kvetch is such a loaded word.

    I’m missing something in this process. The permit for constructing the bathrooms is approved, but the plans for the buildout show a small wine bar and indoor seating (the “restaurant” component, I assume). The live entertainment permit can not be obtained unless you are restaurant, and it’s not clear to me when they pass that threshold. There has to be one more step, even if it is just clearing more red tape.

  • JennX

    “Not everybody supports the market’s effort to become an entertainment and drinking venue, however. Before the county clamped down, a cadre of anonymous complainers would call authorities to kvetch about noise from the garden and smoke from its fire pits.”

    I know the olds in Westover would prefer to keep the neighborhood as boring as possible, but for the vast majority of area residents, the beer garden is a much-welcomed addition and a place where we feel a REAL sense of community. I go to the beer garden and actually have CONVERSATIONS (*gasp*) with my neighbors. (!!) And having great beer on tap is, of course, a major bonus. I challenge any of the opponents to actually come down and hang out in the beer garden with their neighbors of all ages (people bring their kids), and then tell me you’re still opposed.

    • Lou

      The beer garden is nice, for some people. But Westover has been a great community and a great place to hang out and have conversations long before the beer garden. I’m pretty sure I’ve been hanging out with people around the Westover shopping center for decades before the Beer Garden.

    • Larchmont

      Agree 100%. Fortunately the olds on my block love it when I host my own “Beer Garden” in my backyard as they like to see life being brought back to the neighborhood. They have yet to stop in for a beer at the Westover Beer Garden but I’m planning a date with them once it is complete – at least the bathrooms. It is amazing how many neighbors you can meet there as it really brings together the entire Westover, and surrounding, community.

      • Josh S

        Hey, hey, hey! Put a stopper in it! Can we squelch this right now, before it gets out of hand?!?! It is not acceptable to refer to people over a certain age as “the olds.” That’s just lame. Lame. LAME. It’s bad enough we have to listen to people above a certain height and weight referred to as “the bigs” in basketball. It’s just lazy language use. There already exist plenty of words to express what you want to express without resorting to some lame, made-up, faux-hip vocabulary diarrhea like “the olds.”
        (P.S., my complaints have ZERO to do with any kind of concern about “ageism.”)

        • Larchmont

          Done.

        • JennX

          Somebody needs to drink a couple of beers and lighten up.

        • JennX

          Oh and just for the record, I am old enough that plenty of people would probably think I am old age-wise. My use of the term “olds” really has nothing to do with actual age– it’s more about a certain curmudgeonly, anti-fun attitude carried by the most strident anti-WBG folks. And I totally accept the need for appropriate noise restrictions/hours. The WBG will be more fun, and more of a community asset, if the noise is low enough for people visiting it to talk to each other– and that standard should mean a low enough level to make the neighbors happy.

          • Josh S

            Great. Your use of the term is more nuanced than just referring to the age of a person. It’s STILL an annoying, made-up word that adds nothing to the language. What about “stick-in-the-muds?” Or “party-poopers?” Or just plain “grouches?” You yourself use an adjective that has a perfectly good, descriptive and colorful noun version – “curmudgeon.” Use that. “The Olds” is short for a particular, no longer in production brand of car.

          • JennX

            Sorry to belabor this, but I’m pretty sure that all of the alternate terms you suggest were “made up” at some point.

    • Garden Neighbor

      I’ve done what you challenged. Often. I’m no opponent of the beer garden, but I am an opponent of the way the owners have handled the live music. The drinking, talking, etc. has never been a problem, but the music has interfered with neighbors enjoying their own homes. I’d challenge you to try to watch a TV show or go to sleep in my house when the live music is happening. Being neighborly goes both ways.

  • Reader

    Face it, Arlingtonians are best at Kvetching, it’s not loaded at all. Arlington is too perfect and we need something to focus on. Besides, that is what old foogies do – they kvetch. Heaven help us for having some fun in this town with LIVE music, laughter, and community around a fire pit.

    • Clarendude

      Kvetch – To complain persistently and whiningly.

      Yes, some do. I don’t think it is age related so much. Some of the most prolific kvetchers in my neighborhood are middle-aged. I also know some youngsters that kvetch quite well. Different things bother different people. The smell of a local rotisseri chicken place drives some people bonkers with complaints and drives others to heights of ecstasy. The whole point of local government is to find some kind of workable arrangement between all these differences. Not everyone is going to be happy with the result, and in fact it’s a given that there will be people upset.

      Personally, I think the beer garden sounds like a neighborhood asset but I’m sure others may disagree.

  • Val

    I could understand some opposition if the beer garden got really rowdy, but it really is a family/community-oriented establishment. The music they’ve had has always been at a reasonable decible (loud enough to hear on the patio, but quiet enough to hold a conversation over). The people that frequent it are the nice, neighborly types just enjoying good brews and socializing. I applaud the Beer Garden for taking the right steps to get approval by the county. This is a unique place for people to hang out which alas makes their situation a bit unique as well. Places like this are few and far between and the county would be blind not to see how an establishment like this can help rejuvenate Westover.

    • Tabby

      What?!

      • Josh S

        +1.

        (She thinks “rejuvinate” belongs in any conversation having to do with “economic development.”)

    • Westover

      Westover does not really need any rejuvenation. But, there have been a few acts where I can totally understand why the neighbors would think it was a bit loud.

  • Steve

    For the complainers benefit, let’s explore one of the possible alternatives;

    Entrepreneurial, independent (and largely supported) small business is shunned and locked out of a prosperous venture by kvetching neighbors and archaic bureaucracy. Local business then fails and is replaced by the ubiquitous and generic Cheesecake’false-antipedian’tFiF mediocrity.

    Your parking places will all be full, people will queuing around the block to get in, eager to consume 3lbs of feedlot beef and buckets of corn processed food. Nonetheless, the whole shebang will have a healthy wait list of people clamoring for tables until 11pm a la Clarendon.
    Next come the “multi-use” residential high rise $800k condos as you’ll find there are people that actually want to live on top of these feeding factories. Oh and by the way, watch what happens to your property taxes then!

    Melodramatic? Maybe a little, but take a good look Eastward on Wilson and Washington Boulevards towards Ballston and Clarendon, suddenly it might not seem that far fetched.

    • Lou

      You sound panicky. Like it’s the end of the world or something.

      Parking has always been a problem around Westover, before and after the beer garden. I hope they get a good compromise on their outdoor entertainment request. It will be a nice addition to an already vibrant and successful village.

      • JennX

        Lou, I am not being at all snarky here– I just wonder if you can name these other vibrant community gathering spots that you claim exist and predated the beer garden? I hardly see locals gathering casually to chat and hang out at the Lost Dog, Stray Cat, Arax, or (god-forbid) the Forest Inn.

        As for the parking, I think Steve was saying that he didn’t want parking to BECOME a problem. Now, I usually am parked at my house and walk the block to the shops and restaurants on Washington Blvd, so I can’t say with 100% certainty– but I don’t know what you are talking about with regard to existing parking problems. The few times I’ve needed to park around there it has been no problem. Ample parking behind Rite-Aid, Ayer’s, etc. And, failing that, lots and lots of street parking on surrounding blocks. Anyone who thinks that area has parking problems has clearly never lived in a truly vibrant neighborhood (and the parking problems that come with commercial success/urban density).

        • Lou

          You should try out those other spots you mentioned. You will find locals inside being vibrant.

          • JennX

            Yes, I see people at those places… generally talking to the people they came with, or maybe the bartender. Not chatting with new people as I’ve seen happen at the Beer Garden.

          • Lou

            This is just silly. People meet and chat and congregate at all kinds of establishment in Westover. The fact that people see the beer garden as a vital place to bring diverse people together, while at the same time talking down about places like The Forest strikes me as hilariously hypocritical.

          • JennX

            Now it seems like you’re just disagreeing for the sake of arguing. I don’t really see anything hypocritical in anything I’ve said. I don’t generally disagree with most of your points. Let’s meet at the WBG– I’ll buy you a beer and we can discuss.

        • Larchmont

          I remember Westover Market being delayed by the county when trying to get a permit to serve prepared food. Something about being “1″ parking spot short. They started a petition which got them past that snafu. This was around the time Lost Dog was closed for expansion and I don’t know what hoops they had to jump through. I have seen the back lot full several times.

          Don’t forget about Thai Noy. We were there last night with a vibrant crowd outside on the patio. Lost Dog had a good crowd too as did Toby’s. Unfortunately, Stray Cat had a whopping 2 couples when we walked by before and after dinner…and they did not appear to be socializing.

          • LisaDC

            I remember when Stray Cats predecessor, Luna Park Grill packed in the crowds on Thursday thru Saturday nights. Must have been the free live music, not to mention the decent food for a decent price. I was so happy that WBG brought live music back to Westover.

          • Lou

            Talk about a place where you could mellow out on a Saturday afternoon with friends, watch a ball game and catch a great band that night. Really miss Luna Park.

        • Josh S

          “I hardly see locals gathering casually to chat and hang out at the Lost Dog, Stray Cat, Arax, or (god-forbid) the Forest Inn.”

          What does that even mean? I literally am struggling to match the common, everyday definitions for the words in that sentence with reality. Do you think all the patrons in those establishments are non-locals? And if so, how do you define “local?” Do you think the people patronizing the restaurants are somehow there in a formal way? Night after night? Perhaps organized by flash mob? Maybe it’s because there aren’t enough arms draped over the back of chairs so therefore they can’t be “hanging out?” I’ve been to each of those places, some more than once. It has been my experience that generally there is a great deal of “chatting” that goes on. I will admit I have never had a “chat” with anyone about borrowing the lawn mower or who is going to tell the Joneses that their dog poops in everyone’s yard. But I think “chatting” probably is a broad enough term to encompass many possible subjects.
          Now, the Forest Inn is definitely an acquired taste. But, as such, I imagine that a goodly percentage of its patrons are “regulars.” And an establishment with “regulars” pretty much defines the community-based gathering spot that supposedly doesn’t exist outside the Westover market’s year-old experiment with an outdoor beer garden.

          • Westover

            Most of the Forest Inn regulars are no longer locals

          • GMo

            Only in the evening on the weekend.

            Plenty o’ locals during the week and those that start their drinking at 8am on Sat morning too.

        • Jay

          Don’t forget Westover’s first-mover, Lebanese Taverna. They’ve been selling beer and baklava (and a whole lot more) for 31 years.

      • LisaDC

        That’s funny. Westover is the one place in Arlington, i have never had a problem parking and I’ve been shopping, eating, drinking, taking out, going to the post-office and checking out library books there for nearly 25 years. The fact that the Beer Garden is frequented mostly by non-driving neighbors, is a win-win win-for everyone: 1. more foot traffic for other establishments; 2. fewer drivers requiring parking and reducing drunk driving; 3. additional sales income for the county. I join those who applaud WBGs efforts to upgrade to be in compliance instead of setting up shop elsewhere.

    • Westover

      Steve, the high rise tried to come to Westover four years ago and we put an end to it. It is not what the overwhelming majority of the neighborhood or the current economy wanted. Today most of the neighborhood does want the beer garden, but most also want to find the compromise with the sound issue. It looks like as long as everyone works in good faith, this will be settled by the first sunny Saturday Evening in June.

      Shoot, the story I hear around the neighborhood is that the whole reason that the beer garden exists is to compete with Lost Dog after one on of the Hicks boys was kicked out for either under age drinking or intoxication a few years ago. Not sure if there is any truth to it, but it sure makes for a fun story if they can pull it all off. This will be good for Westover as a whole.

      • Lou

        Ha, now that is an interesting story, if even remotely true.

      • GMo

        Word has it that Ross and the Hicks Boys do have a bit of a feud going on. If that is the reason why I wouldn’t be surprised.

        • Lou

          Great that’s just what we need in Westover, a good feud. We can all pick sides of the street.

          I’m no fan of Ross. I don’t like his silly 3 drink maximums and I hate that he bought out Luna, even though Eric was closing down regardless. A lot of people pushed hard to get him to at least keep the music going, but he was determined to build Lost Dog East. And I’ve heard from more than a couple employees that they can be a tough couple to work for.

          Totally support his rescue work though.

          • y8s

            remember the food fight scenes in the old popeye cartoons where Wimpy would sit at a table and just grab flying foodstuffs out of the air and put himself together a nice meal–even to the point of needing ketchup for his fries?

            I’ll be the first to sit between the Lost Dog and Westover Market and pick flying high end beers out of the sky as they pass overhead.

          • Burt

            Yes they are such a tough couple to work for that many of there employees have worked for them for years (which doesn’t usually happen in restaurants) some even returning after years to open up Lost Dog South and Mclean…..

      • Burt

        getting kicked out for underage drinking or intoxication…….if true should they be running a business that sells beer and is expected to follow the rules???:):)

  • Deebo

    The last time a government had a positive impact on any business or homeowner was 1914 with the implementation of the local sewer system. Joe Biden is the Vice-President of our Country.

  • Pingback: Gar-Field teacher arrested for relationship with student; Dulles bag handler dies after fall; Fairfax man arrested for multiple incidents; and Westover Beer Garden moving forward | Northern Virginia Magazine

  • Garden Neighbor

    This post casts the issue as cranky neighbors standing in the way of honest entrepreneurs. That’s just not the truth. As one of the garden’s closest neighbors, and sometime patron, I LOVE the beer garden. But the owners simply weren’t/aren’t considerate of their neighbors. While I never complained once, the un-permitted live music last summer was often louder in my son’s bedroom than it was inside the market itself. And it often went on later and longer than reasonable. I don’t know why the garden can’t keep their outdoor seating but limit the live music. It would be the neighborly thing to do.

    • Blue Person

      Speaking of outdoor music, does anyone have a quick link to any county rules regarding restaurants and other establishments piping music onto the street/sidewalk? Just curious what the letter of the law is. Sometimes, on calm, cool weekday nights, you can hear the mariachi music being piped out of my beloved Baja Fresh from over a block away! Ole!!

      • CW

        Oh no, my sock puppet!

    • Sue

      Garden Neighbor – I agree, and think we all need to be careful about needlessly vilifying each other (for example, I’m old and love the Beer Garden.) I do think that you and some of the other close neighbors have legitimate concerns. I’m hopeful that a use permit which specifies mutually agreed upon hours and decibel levels will go a long way to solving the problem. It will also provide both the neighbors and the market with clear, objective ground rules. I don’t think fair to say the Market owners haven’t been considerate – I think if you had talked to them you would have been able to work out a satisfactory accomodation. I think both the neighbors and the owners have been unfairly portrayed in a lot of these discussions.

      • Garden Neighbor

        Sue — You’re right that I should’ve taken the initiative to talk to the owners. Guess I thought the live music was so obviously inappropriate, and that so many other neighbors had complained to them, that they would tone it down — and not try to get a permit from the county for it. I also think they could’ve taken the time when they first started to check to see if they were inconveniencing their neighbors. That’s what I’d do if I were planning a loud outdoor party that I expected to run into the night.

        • Sue

          GN – I don’t agree that live music is obviously inappropriate. It is if its so loud that you can’t hear your tv, but I know that wasn’t always the case. I think that’s why its so important that specific times and decibel levels be agreed to. From the recent meeting I attended, it appeared that many of the immediate neighbors wanted to work toward a specific agreement including measuring the decibel level at different places along the fence to determine what’s appropriate, which I think is the right approach. I know the market revised their permit request based on what they heard from the neighbors, so I feel like they’re listening. I think things could have been done better on all sides, but I hope we’re close to an outcome that will work for everyone, including you and the other neighbors.

          • Garden Neighbor

            Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that all live music was inappropriate. Just how it was handled before. Save for the few occasions when there was just a guy and his acoustic guitar, the music was always too loud and often ran too late. If they really stick to the hours they proposed and somehow manage to lessen the volume, I’d be truly happy. But having lived through it last summer from just over the fence, I don’t see how they can manage it.

          • Sue

            If they get the use permit they’ll have to comply with whatever times and decibel limits it contains or the permit will get pulled. I think the Market understands this and fully intends to comply with the terms of any permit. I understand why you would be skeptical, but they’ve got a lot to lose if they screw it up.

        • Burt

          The permit is not all about the neighbors complaints all restaurants in Arlington must apply for a live entertainment permit,,,,why does everyone think the Beer Garden should be different a lot small business owners have had to do it and pay for it!And I am confused thought in order to pour and allow patrons to drink onsite required you to be a restaurant in order to get ABC approval? So how is it they are allowed to now when they don’t qualify or have an indoor restaurant yet? Isn’t that the cart before the horse? or maybe thats not the ABC rule….?

    • Burt

      How can you call them honest when they have knowingly broke and are still not playing by the rules…..and the cash only when the store takes credit cards is a little sketchy to me….are they paying taxes??

  • Tabby

    On a related note, any opinions (ha) on what neighborhoods/areas are lacking a local watering spot?

    • http://arlingtondirt.blogspot.com TGEoA

      Cherrydale.

      And when Essy’s shutsdown, I hear Dr. Dremos is moving in.

  • Lori

    We moved here from San Diego a year ago and feel the Westover Beer Garden brings a community together in a way that no other establishment can. It is easy going, kid friendly and allows you to get you to know your neighbor. A novel idea for many people I think. We went through this on the West Coast with drinking beer on the beach and hope that this does not have the same outcome. The people who run Westover are some of the nicest people we have come to know here. If music being too loud is the issue, there has to be some sort of compromise in terms of how late it can play. But it shouldn’t be prohibited totally. There has to be a way of meeting in the middle and not completely banning it. Long live the Westover Beer Garden!!!!!

    • Lou

      I would not worry too much. I think they are very likely to get the entertainment permit now that they have upgraded their facilities and complied with the permit requirements.

  • Kevin Heald

    Although the lively debate here is entertaining, is it better to take this debate to the meeting on May 14th? If fans of this idea do NOT make it that meeting, you know the “kvetchers” will. Nieghborhood poltics are about who is the squeeky wheel, and I think those of us who are fans need to step and make time for the meeting and have our voices be heard.

  • Jerry

    As one who has reached the exhalted “age” protected class, and a person who has always liked conversation, drink and food, as in Germany’s local beer gardens (not the ones for tourists), I believe a sensible compromise for the music would be to prevent electronic amplification. Does music need to be so loud you have to shout to be heard by those across the table to be enjoyable? If you want music to listen to, go to a concert. If you want to talk and be sociable with your neighbors, keep it down enough so that you can talk without yelling.

  • Beer Garden Fan

    I agree the music is the problem. When they started with the barbecue and the outdoor taps, I never heard any complaints, and the place was hopping with happy people. The neighborly thing to do would be just drop the music, and let everyone live in peace. I don’t understand why the supporters of the beer garden think their desire to listen to amplified music should trump the rights of homeowners to enjoy the peace and quiet of their homes.

    • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

      Here’s a crazy thought that I haven’t heard (har) batted around yet: acoustic music only! Guitar, bass, vocal… and beer and bbq. And limit the music to no later than 9pm. Reasonable compromise?

      • Tabby

        Yes.

  • JimPB

    The costs that the Westover Market has had to incur and the ordeals that it has to go through are making me an advocate of limited government.

    And: “a cadre of anonymous complainer” is how many?

    • Dan

      “And: “a cadre of anonymous complainer” is how many?”

      More than a peck but fewer than a passel ??

      The one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is that I think the market/grocery really needs the beer garden to remain viable.

      A couple of years ago it really looked to be hanging on by a thread.

  • reallyiwasbornhere

    G::TheNativeArlingtonian:
    spot on compromise!!

    i eat at the dog/cat then walk across the street to drink, please don’t make me choose sides.

    • Burt

      Me too..

  • NoKids

    honestly, the worst part about the Beer Garden is all the kids! it is a beer garden, not playground – you chose to have kids, i didn’t – why do i have to socialize with them when i’m having a beer! *ducks from pitchforks*

    • Clarendude

      They need one of those “Unattended Children will be Sold to the Circus” signs.

      • Tabby

        +1
        It’s a liability issue as well. Kids (with the exemption of babies in strollers) don’t belong there.

    • Burt

      Agree do your kids need to hang out with you while you drink and bug the non kid people…hire a babysitter or invite people to your yard

      • Tabby

        Also dangerous and a liability issue. Kids aren’t allowed in the bar areas of restaurants.

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