Arlington, VA

It took nearly three and a half hours for the Arlington County Board to squash any hope of outdoor patio seating at American Flatbread.

Board members repeatedly reassured owner Scott Vasko that Flatbread was exactly the type of business that Arlington County is trying to attract. In the end, however, promises made to local homeowners in 2004 were upheld, and a patio between the restaurant and an adjacent house will remain an undeveloped “buffer zone.”

In a concession to Flatbread, the board granted the more lenient of two possible scenarios for sidewalk seating in front of the Clarendon restaurant. Flatbread will be allowed to set up tables on 25 feet of sidewalk in front of 11th Street North (the other scenario called for 15 feet). Combined with sidewalk seating also approved for North Fillmore Street, Flatbread will likely have a total of four outdoor tables and 10 seats. The patio could have sat 24.

Numerous local homeowners spoke out against Flatbread’s patio request at the board meeting, although most also voiced support for sidewalk seating. Of the dozen speakers on the issue, only 25% spoke in favor of patio seating.

As part of the board’s action, Screwtop Wine Bar was also granted sidewalk seating, which should allow for 3-4 tables outside the restaurant. Like Flatbread, Screwtop is located in the ZoSo building at 1025 North Fillmore Street.

In addition to sidewalk seating, Fillmore Street may soon be getting some signage. To help attract customers to the off-the-main-drag strip of shops and restaurants, the board paved the way for on-building “blade” signs and sidewalk-level sandwich board-style signs to win approval at a subsequent board meeting.

“I am concerned that this small business needs some help in ensuring that enough people use his business,” board member Barbara Favola said. “I’m also concerned that Arlington really balance as well as we can our desire to have some kind of street life to encourage that urban character we talk about. This is an urban area, and I have to admit that people should expect some activity in this part of the county.”

At the end of the discussion, which began at 9:00 a.m. and wrapped up in time for a late lunch, board chairman Jay Fisette lamented that the developer of the ZoSo building didn’t try to set up an area for patio seating before its initial design was approved. Fisette, speaking for himself, suggested that an outside courtyard surrounded by 7 foot walls could have been quiet and unobtrusive enough to pass muster, had it been built into the original plan.

Vasko, Flatbread’s owner, has not responded to a request for comment.

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