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DEVELOPING — Staff Recommends Denying Westover Beer Garden Permit

by ARLnow.com May 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm 6,776 157 Comments

(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) County staffers are recommending against Westover Market’s application for live entertainment at its popular outdoor beer garden.

The County Board is set to vote on the permit application at its meeting on Saturday. The permit would allow the beer garden to host concerts, open mic nights and other forms of live entertainment.

The presidents of four surrounding civic associations have all written letters to the County Board in favor of live entertainment at the beer garden. The leaders said their associations voted overwhelmingly in favor of a compromise plan between Westover Market and neighbors.

The compromise would allow the beer garden to host live entertainment from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, plus open mic nights from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, provided that the Market keeps the sound at decibel levels consistent with the county noise ordinance. The Market has also agreed to only host outdoor entertainment from April 1 to October 31, according to the staff report.

Nonetheless, some neighbors have remained steadfastly opposed to the beer garden and the noise and crowds it generates. Here’s the summary of the county staff recommendation against the permit:

The applicant is proposing a use permit for outdoor live entertainment in association with a restaurant at the Westover Market, located in the Westover Shopping Center. The applicant requests approval for live entertainment in the Market’s outdoor café, popularly known as the “Beer Garden”. The existence of the Beer Garden itself would not be affected by this decision, only whether live entertainment is permitted in that Beer Garden. Staff’s practice has been to not permit outdoor live entertainment due to the negative effects such use would have on the surrounding area and land use conflicts. The proposed use is located in a low-density area in close proximity to single-family dwellings. Several immediate neighbors have raised concerns over the noise generated by past (and unapproved) live entertainment in the outdoor café Beer Garden. Approving the subject use would likely lead to future requests from restaurants and nightclubs throughout the County for outdoor live entertainment, including the increasingly popular rooftop bars , allowing more intense uses with substantial adverse effects on surrounding residential properties.

Staff does not support the request for several reasons: The outdoor café’s close proximity to single-family residences (residential back yards abut the shopping center parking lot), and the low-density and low-activity character of the Westover Shopping Center area and the “C-1” Zoning District in general; practical difficulties in the enforcement of live entertainment conditions and noise and capacity regulations which largely rely on self-enforcement, and the present applicant’s past history of noncompliance with County ordinances and regulations. Furthermore, only once before has the County Board approved a request for outdoor live entertainment (SoBe in Clarendon, located in a “C-O” zoning district); that was termed an “experiment” and was approved only with the justification that the location was a high-density commercial area far away from residential uses. Therefore, staff recommends denial of the use permit request for a restaurant with live entertainment.

The permit does not address the legality of the beer garden itself.

“Whether the applicant can have the outdoor Beer Garden is not in question,” county staff wrote. The number of outdoor seats the beer garden is ultimately allowed to have will be determined when it applies for a Certificate of Occupancy later this summer, following the construction of enhanced Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant facilities.

The staff report says that the beer garden is already allowed to have certain types of entertainment.

“The applicant’s ability to have radio, TV and ‘piped-in’ music in the outdoor cafe should create the sort of family-friendly fun atmosphere that the applicant and the community desire,” county staff wrote.

A Facebook group set up to support the Westover Beer Garden has nearly 1,500 “fans.”

Photo courtesy Alan Howze

  • South Arlington

    Ugh, the olds and curmudgeons win again. How long will the tyranny of the tiny minority prevail over the majority?

    • dynaroo

      Suppose 99% of the people want to put an oil refinery next to your house. You oppose it. Tyranny!

      • Good point, but perhaps a bad example. An oil refinery is a huge footprint, with lots of truck traffic, and loads of environmental concerns. It hardly can compare to a beer garden with outdoor music. Although, if the beer garden gets too out of hand I suppose one could argue the music is noise “pollution” and the urine from drunks is hazardous waste.

        • charlie

          i think if you like it quiet; don’t enjoy listening to music you can’t choose or control; and, concerned about people leaving a beer garden with one to many under their belts; you would find this frustrating.

          I have to agree with the staff that this business owner has not shown good faith in his operation. and there is no guarantee that he will. that aside, he could get a six month conditional permit, as has been done for others to get thru a probationary period.

          • Sean

            There are already other at least three establishments in the area in which people leave with one too many under their belts. I think it is irresponsible to blame the beergarden for that.

            Also, County Laws have a 10PM curfew. I think if the garden adheres to this curfew there should not be an issue. How is it any different than the neighborhood kids starting a garage band next door (other than the fact that these are professional musicians)?

            I think the county should consider a permit for live, outdoor music for establishments zoned for fewer than 100 people. This will still restrict the rooftop bars, but allow places with a small patio, like Westover, to become a live music venue.

            The owners are more than willing to play ball. They have even set up a webcam and live stream so that decibel meters can be constantly monitored!

  • CO Transplant

    Not sure I like living in an area that doesn’t allow outdoor music.

    If you live close enough to enjoy the convenience of walking to and from local businesses – the trade off is putting up with the noise congestion that comes with living that close.

    I can’t think of one legitimate reason to deny this kind of permit.

    I’m surprised by the lack of live music in this area. I’ve been to plenty of places much smaller and less culturally diverse with a helluva lot more live music.

    • NomNom

      The last sentence of ArCo’s comment is what bugs me: “Approving the subject use would likely lead to future requests from restaurants and nightclubs throughout the County for outdoor live entertainment, including the increasingly popular rooftop bars , allowing more intense uses with substantial adverse effects on surrounding residential properties.”

      I would hate to see the county work past 3:30 in the afternoon and decide whether to issue a few more permits.

      • South Arlington

        It seems like they are once again protecting the interests of Lyon Village with the statement that it might lead to future requests since god forbid there be music on the Eventide, Whitlows, or Arlington Rooftop Grill roof. Think of the children!

        • NOVApologist

          Your obsessive anger toward Lyon Village has become a little frightening.

      • JimPB

        Other facilities, e.g., roof gardena, following Westover Market’s live music and entertainment, is a PLUS for me. Let their be LIFE in Arlington County.

    • madisonmanor

      If only they had been smart enough to change their name from Westover Beer Garden to Artisphere II, not only would it have received approval, but county funds to build and maintain it.

      • FedUp

        Yeah, except that those dumb people in the parks department think that musicians need their own ASCAP license to play in the artisphere, not realizing that the county has a license. There needs to be a major shake up in the staff of the county. Lots of wasted taxpayer dollars in the form of dead weight that is afraid to make decisions.

    • JimPB

      You speak my mind.

  • NorArl

    Why does the county board hate fun?!

    • Arlwhenever

      Here is how it works in Arlington. The ordinary working class folks and families who live in low cost (affordable) housing bordering the hustle and bustle of commercial districts should suck it up whenever the rich folk or the footloose singles want to party. Party on!

  • Westover

    Boooooooooooo! Just set time restrictions and approve the permit!!!!!!

  • CO Transplant

    Also – the pic provided isn’t exactly what I’m looking for in a beer garden. A little more beer, and a LOT less kids, please.

    • ArlG

      That’s the demographic of the neighborhood. Why shouldn’t the venue represent that demographic? It’s not as though it’s IOTA at 11pm at night.

    • charlie

      my exact thought.
      and younger women too.

      • KalashniKEV

        Those girls are underage…

        • charlie

          i was thinking more about the almost-MILFs than the children. please.

    • david

      Feel free to visit another beer garden. It’s a neighborhood spot and the neighborhood has a lot of kids and younger parents who like to meet up for a beer.

    • Westover

      Ti is the perfect Beer Garden for the neighborhood. Fits the DIMK’s(Dual Income Multiple Kids) of Westover. Otherwise the kids cause over crowding at Whitlow’s.

    • nonagon

      That photo is a bit misleading in that kids are disproportionally overrepresented. Plus the place becomes kid free after dark. Still, it’s great for Westover residents and their kids to have a friendly, nearby place to meet neighbors on weekend afternoons. It’s a special place.

  • Arlington Resident

    Come on . . . get over it Arl staff! It’s not like the place is playing music until 2AM with a bunch of college kids having fun. This is a great place for the community ot gather, bond with each other, and walk home.

    • JimPB

      Right!

    • madisonmanor

      No – the inconsiderate bunch of college kids blaring music and playing beer pong and generally being obnoxious until 2am live next door to me, and the police are growing tired of coming over every weekend at that time to get them to be neighborly. I understand the neighborhood concerns, but that’s one reason why I bought a house away from that possibility but still be within walking distance. It’s a shame the county cares/focuses more about limiting noise in a commercial venue than they do in the residential neighborhoods.

      • Joe M.

        True.

  • FedUp

    Arlington staff do not want to have to deal with it. They are so afraid that this will set a precedence. So what if it does? You handle these permit requests on a case by case basis. I guess they don’t want to get off their lazy you-know-whats and process them every time a requests comes in.

  • Dan

    “allowing more intense uses with substantial adverse effects on surrounding residential properties”

    Interesting why this is the case for the The Beer Garden and not for the EFC parking lot..

    Might have something to do with the potential revenue ??

    Also duly noted the photograph credit……

  • 1234

    It would seem that a comprimise might be in qualifying “amplified” vs. “unamplified.”
    While I can understand residents not wanting Twisted Sister tearing up the beer garden (and I doubt that’s what the market would have), that’s what Co. staff and the residents are likely trying to protect themselves from. Rather, having an acoustic guitar player playing a few songs will both better reflect the interests of the community as well as keeping the “feel” of the venue appropriate. And then when the rooftop deck places in Clarendon do want to book something loud, there’s a qualified precedent.

    Just thinking out loud here. . .

    • PBOB

      You’re right on. I’m a long-time Westover resident and a musician. Many places in the area only hire acoustic acts, solo guitarists, etc. for just this reason: to appeal to demographic they’d like to target (e.g. not the jello shooter crowd). It’s quieter, allows conversation. My band plays these places and places that take full bands. This does not, and really should not, be a place that hires a multi-piece rock band.

      To allow TV, “piped in music” is not going to be different than allowing an acoustic act to play from a volume perspective. Assuming this decision goes negative tomorrow, I hope it can be reconsidered.

  • GoodStaffBadPrecedent

    The County staff are just doing their job here, enforcing the noise ordinance which prevents amplified music from spilling over property lines. The Westover neighbors might not mind, but as someone who lives within (literal, yuck) spitting distance of a new rooftop bar, I appreciate that staff is thinking about the precedent this would set.

    If the County Board wants to overrule staff and approve a violation of their own noise ordinance, they have that right. They’ll lose my vote, though.

    • South Arlington

      See above. This really comes down to setting precedents that protect the interests of Lyon Village residents from the new rooftop joints.

      Can homeowners just accept that if they want the convenience and boosted property values of being next to a dining strip, that you take the good and the bad?

    • dynaroo

      Except is is apparently possible for the beer garden to have live music without violating the noise ordinance, as its request implies.

  • Chris

    Yep, people will certainly complain. Let’s nip that in the bud by disallowing a business from having local artists perform.

    Westover is a nice little market with a pleasant outdoor area – I have to wonder about all of the people who have problems with the place. I guess it’s far enough from Arlington proper to draw the suburbanites with sticks lodged deep in their anuses.

    • Westover

      Very very few in the neighborhood have a problem with the place. Most are in favor of the Beer Garden and the entertainment.

    • David

      What is Arlington proper? That doesn’t make any sense.

    • GMo

      It is really approx. 3 people, but these people are VERY LOUD. $$

  • Westover

    The County Staff must have interned for Frm Sec. of the Interior James Watt.

  • Joseph

    Do you really want banging drums & symbols or cover bands ringing through your neighborhood? How about Karaoke singers performing Don’t Stop Believing or Take Me Home Tonight? I’d rather not have those.

    • That’s what the decibel limit is for. And really, how can someone move to within throwing distance of a major road & commercial area, then demand quiet? Talk about wanting to have your cake & eat it too …

      • Glharrsn

        Completely agree! Leafblowers are at a louder decibel level, and traffic is a constant.
        The point is: recorded music is allowed at a set decibel limit. Period. What makes live music at the same acceptable set decibel limit any more controversial? It engenders community,though, and that’s a plus!

        • dynaroo

          I say ban leafblowers and allow music at the beer garden.

    • y8s

      Those cover bands are often very good. And who isn’t amused and tickled by the mediocre renditions of your eighties off-pop hits??

      Whatever–permit or no permit, I just want to drink beer outside with five hundred 6 year olds.

    • The Noze Bros

      Yes, I live in the neighborhood, have been to Westover with my family (and childern) and would be fine with “banging drums & … cover bands”. Along with drums being banged, I’m sure guitars will be strummed and bases will be plucked. Thanks for asking.

    • nonagon

      I love Zildjian symbols. Ride symbols, crash symbols. Symbols.

  • ArlingtonNative

    You want to know how to keep the “olds & curmudgeons” from winning everytime. Get involved.
    Most of them are retired; the highlight of their day is spending time bothering county-planners, board-members, etc. It’s the old adage of the “squeaky wheel’

    Here is your chance… “The County Board is set to vote on the permit application at its meeting on Saturday.” – Go and voice your opinion… and take some friends along for support.
    Heck – if just those who have posted on here in disapproval of the Staff recommendation were to show up, that could be enough to sway the Board’s decision.

  • huh

    The guy with the three kids is a renter. The owners of the house have approved the music, they own the shopping center and enjoy the rebound in the neighborhood shops

  • ArlingtonNative

    Don’t stoppp be-lieveing ….. hold on to that feeeelllling … Don’t Stop ….
    Ohhh, sorry, was just warming up my vocals in anticipation of Karaoke Night!

  • Take it down a notch

    I don’t really care one way or the other, but “the present applicant’s past history of noncompliance with County ordinances and regulations” is what jumped out at me.

  • Andy

    Yes, this is exactly a case of County staff laziness. So sad. At the very least, how about a compromise and permit acoustic music?

    • FedUp

      +10

  • Curious George

    Sounds like the Westover Beer Garden folks didn’t pay a big enough bribe.

    • FedUp

      I’ve heard about bribes before. I wouldn’t put it past these staffers, especially those in the dreaded zoning office.

  • Allan

    Anybody remember that old Kevin Bacon movie where they banned dancing in the town? So, now we can have a movie about Arlington banning live music because it might disturb a few people.

    Don’t sing, don’t dance, don’t talk loudly, don’t laugh, don’t even dare to have a little bit of fun because it bothers me. It’s all about me.

    • dynaroo

      Nice straw man.

      I’m coming over to your house with a jackhammer at 2 am. Don’t complain or it’s “all about you.”

      I’m undecided on the beer garden music issue, but these absolutist arguments, on either side, are ridiculous.

      • Westover

        Nice strawman yourself. The plan would have the music shut down at 10pm, not 2am. Most in the neighborhood would like the live music.

        • nonagon

          I do agree absolutist arguments are wrong. Compromises need to be made in the interests of both sides. For example: keep the volume down, and stop playing at a reasonable hour. I think that’ll do it.

          • Thes

            Absolutist arguments are *never* wrong.

  • BoredHouseWife

    Poo on the party poopers. The good weather is for music and laughter and good times. God knows we need the spirit boost 🙂 It is time to celebrate our victory over the war on terror!

  • The staff saying recorded music is OK but live music isn’t is absolutely unreal. Why is one OK but not the other? Talk about micromanaging a business. I hope the County Board rejects this overzealous nonsense.

    • Thes

      Why would county staff make such a distinction? Is it just based on their personal preferences? Or is it related to something written in the law?

      • Frog

        Just putting on background muzak or radio is legally not considered “live entertainment”.

  • jjbug

    Where are the scientists? Can’t we pile up mattresses or hang pillows on the edge of the courtyard to absorb the sound? There might even be 21st century ways to prevent the sound from leaving this restaurant’s courtyard.

    • Allan

      There is a way to prevent sound from leaving the restaurant – it’s called Arlington County.

      The “We Know What’s Best For You but you don’t” County.

      • dynaroo

        So the county should abolish it’s noise ordinance?

        What is it with all this ridiculous hyperbole? The county government has to make choices. Just because you disagree with it doesn’t make it an absurd decision.

        • Allan

          This doesn’t have anything to do with the noise ordinance. This is about the Staff’s opinion about denying a permit for outdoor music, whether or not it ever MIGHT violate the noise ordinance.

          Geez man, get a clue.

          • dynaroo

            But your “we know what’s best” argument could be used as one to abolish the noise ordinance. That’s the point. In fact, it could be used to abolish any law. Which is why it’s a silly argument.

            Geez, man, get a clue.

        • madisonmanor

          We actually consulted an attorney about the noise levels emanating obnoxious fraternity boys next door. The county noise ordinance is basically not valid (has been challenged and is currently somewhere in the process of being addressed – a new one is needed but we were told there is no timetable) and unenforceable – all you can do is call the police and all they can really do is tell the offending party to turn it down. You have to establish a pattern of repeated calls to the police where they have to witness the noise and tell them to turn it down before any charges can be brought – at least that’s how it works for residences.

  • The Native

    I used to live near there. I have been there. It is not a problem. Get over it Arlington County staff. You are flat out wrong here. It has been and would continue to be an asset if allowed. I though this is what a ‘walkable, car free Arlington’ was supposed to look like. Write the board or attend the meeting and support the good things in Arlington.

  • Runaway Train

    Bring the beer garden to Shirlington, we will be happy to have you! Open on S Four Mile Run Dr. in one of the vacant garages.

    • FedUp

      Great idea. It’s where the county staff never shows up anyway, except to harass business owners who put up nice murals on the ugliest side of Four Mile Run.

  • PhilL

    I have mixed feelings about this. I would not mind live entertainment there. I live far enough away to not hear it and close enough to walk there in 10 minutes. So it would not bother me, although it’s not really my type of crowd, with all the kids running around.

    On the other hand, I applaud staff for recognizing differences exist in commercial districts throughout the county. Just because we have a shopping center and a through-road and metro buses does not mean we have to be the same brand as Clarendon, despite what many people say. I live in Westover because I want something different than Clarendon. I like that we can have the retail and the transit, but also have a village center that shuts it down at night and coexists well with the predominance of low density residential.

    • The Native

      You applause the County Staff for “recognizing differences exist in commercial districts throughout the county”?! Actually what they are saying and have said is that there are no differences anywhere. That along with ‘we don’t want to establish a precedent…’ are wrong headed poor excuses for professionals in Arlington County.

  • JimPB

    The recommendation is a staff recommendation. What’s important is the decision of the county board. The votes of board members are ballot box decision makers for me. Vote against Westover, and, come election data, I won’t vote for you. Vote for Westover, and you’re still in consideration for a vote.

    I don’t live in Westover, but it’s nearby, and I’ve experienced the live music of the Westover Beer Garden. I would love to see variations of Westover’s Beer Garden throughout the county. They would draw neighbors and families together. (Something that’s happening too little now.) It’s inexpensive live entertainment by local folks. Bring it on BIG TIME.

    For several years I was publisher-editor of a Iowa small town weekly newspaper with a large opera house (still in use today). From the files of the newspaper, I learned of how, in the early days of radio and before tv, folks enjoyed live entertainment, much of it locally generated. The good old days weren’t so good in a number of ways, but the locally produced and engaged in entertainment was really good. Bring it back.

    • FedUp

      So who will run against them if they vote “no”? Any takers?

      • HonestBroker

        I’m in. If either Tejada or Hynes votes against the live music special use permit Saturday morning, I’m launching my campaign Saturday afternoon.

        • Sue

          Your campaign kickoff can be Saturday afternoon. You’ll have a LOT of supporters!

        • dynaroo

          Sounds great – but you really ought to have a big kickoff party with loud live music, and see if any neighbors complain so you can inject some irony into it.

  • Nimmel

    The Garden is such an asset to our community. Laughing so hard at the Liberals who have nothing better to do than to scratch their short grey hair and get 5 oil changes in their Subarus before they can make an illogical decision. Gross.

  • Dressage Queen

    I side with Westover on this one, this has been a quiet neighborhood for many decades and now starting to grow. Sure its nice to have growth but take one step at a time. I don’t think you all would want this in your back yard.

    I live in Ballston and near a few bars, I have been in my condo for 26 years and the bars were not here when I move in. There is no live music outside but the drunks are loud when leaving or smoking outside. I hate to think of what it would be like if there was live music outside. I knew I was moving into a growing area and I like having so much around me but don’t want outside entertainment next door.

  • Clarendude

    I’m really surprised that the ONLY outdoor music permit ever granted in the county is SoBe (and they seem to never use it!).

    I’ll bet the board approves something here with additional restrictions – the hours seem reasonable but maybe they make them an hour earlier and also restrict the music to acoustic only (no amplification).

  • HonestBroker

    The Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of a resolution supporting the playing of live music at the Westover Beer Garden as long as the music meets the conditions contained in an agreement between the beer garden’s owner and the Westover Civic Association.

    Westover Market’s Devin Hicks, owner of the beer garden, provided an update to the roughly 30 residents attending the HP-OK’s quarterly meeting about his plans for live music.

    In late April, the Westover neighborhood voted overwhelmingly in favor of allowing live music at the beer garden, as long as it meets the conditions listed in this article. The Westover Civic Association recorded 90 votes in favor of the least restrictive plan for live music; 13 votes in favor of live music, but with more restrictive hours; and six votes opposed to any live music. The Tara-Leeway Heights Civic Association, situated directly to the east of the Westover neighborhood, also is supporting the beer garden’s request for a special use permit for live music.

    At the HP-OK meeting, Hicks was unwilling to predict how the county board would vote Saturday. But he said he suspects the county board members will take into consideration the broad support among local neighborhood groups for the live music permit when they make their decision.

    Let’s hope the board listens to the neighborhood residents and not it’s staff.

  • Dressage Queen

    Why didn’t my post get posted?

  • Let’s see…. so firing cannons off at 6 a.m. in Arlington County is ok, but a little music at a public establishment isn’t? Nice…

    • Frog

      They’re the Army, they do what they want.

    • jan

      good one

  • Shane

    Come on. These people blew off County regulations the first time, as the Staff’s letter notes. They ran a very canny “pilot project”, building support amongst an extensive clientele while trampling over the neighbors by violating the noise and occupancy ordinances.

    Note that Westover Beer Garden doesn’t go away if they lose on the live entertainment permit. They just want to enhance their revenue stream with this option. Note that, EVERY other establishment is watching. If Westover Beer Garden wins this AFTER flouting County regulations so obviously, then other establishments will do the same. Westover Beer Garden could be a great place, and clearly there’s a real market in the Westover neighborhood for such an establishment.

    But it’s going to have to be under different management/ownership, people who haven’t blown off County ordinances. Not fair to the loyal clientele, but that’s life.

    • So what you’re saying is you want to complain but you didn’t bother to show up to the Civic Association vote?

      • Shane

        You’re absolutely right, Miles. I had another engagement that night, and didn’t think to try to vote by proxy (if that’s allowed). I chose instead to write to the County Board to oppose this, focused on the ownership’s lack of credibility.

        I’ll take a moment, Miles, to go further on this theme of people who “didn’t bother to show up”. I recall you were one of five people who ran in the Democratic Primary to replace Al Eisenberg. After Patrick Hope won, the primary candidates immediately got together at a party function to congratulate Patrick and wish him well in the General Election.

        Well, all but one, Miles. You “didn’t bother to show up”.

        Goes both ways.

  • Glharrsn

    I think we should create carbon copy sterile neighborhoods all over Arlington. Knock down all the old buildings with character and erect generic skyscraping condos with storefronts- Clarendon style. Let’s look a massive community effort and compromise straight in the eye and say, “thanks, but no thanks, we don’t care what you want.” A dangerous precedent is to stifle any and every organic spark that starts at the community level with a vote by elected officials.

  • Alan Howze

    Apologies in advance for the long post. I live close to the Westover Market and my wife and young children (visible in the story photo) are frequent customers of the Market and occasional visitors to the Beer Garden. I have watched the evolution of the Westover Market and the birth of the Beer Garden over the past few years.

    It’s the story of a young entrepreneur who returned home to help his family’s struggling small business. He started the Market’s revival from dumpy corner grocery to neighborhood gathering place by bringing in local vineyards and breweries for tasting sessions on Friday evenings. That worked so well they created a trademark “Wall of Beer” inside the store that drew in more new customers. Then the Market started providing beer on tap on their outdoor patio. Then they transformed their deli by bringing in a local butcher to provide fresh local meats. And then they started featuring live music. And that’s when the trouble started.

    The music started small and quiet, and as it become more successful the Market added more and new (and louder) acts. Pretty soon, what started as a customer attraction became a neighborhood issue, especially for those living right behind the Market who were most affected by loud music.

    In the County’s report recommending a denial of the permit, nearly all of the opposition comes from half a dozen houses that are directly behind the shopping center. But their noise concerns are real, and they set off an intensive community dialogue that resulted in a set of recommendations that would balance the desire to have live music with the need to prevent intrusive noise to those living close-by. These conditions included restrictions on the days and times for music, the construction of a physical sounds barrier, the appointment of a community liaison, and developing a monitoring system. There are some who remain opposed to the Market, but the overwhelming community response has been support for a workable compromise.

    So, after extensive community dialogue and sessions with County Staff, from which reasonable accommodations were developed, it is very disappointing that County Staff recommended against the permit. And in fact, each of the four reasons cited by County Staff on Page 2 for denying the permit, have been or can be addressed.

    1) Proximity to homes – Westover Market agree to install a sound barrier to block sound. As the report mentions, the Market and County staff recently conducted sound tests to ensure compliance with noise ordinances at the closest neighbors fence-lines.

    2) Enforcement difficulty – the conditions agreed to by the Civic Associations would designate a primary POC for the business and the community to communicate noise complaints. They have even devised a live streaming decibel meter to allow for continuous remote monitoring of noise levels at the fence line.

    3) History of non-compliance – the Beer Garden has also been an education for the young entrepreneur, and it seems likely that at times last summer the music was too loud and neighbors concerns were ignored. The Market has grown to realize the importance of neighborhood support, and there has not been live music or loud music of any type at the Beer Garden in some time. In fact, the Market has now invested a considerable sum in building out a restaurant space, restrooms, etc in order to comply with the edicts of the zoning office. As noted above, an acoustic sound barrier has been installed and recent decibel readings with a live band showed sound levels within compliance. And in the event of future non-compliance, the County Board has the authority to revoke the permit at any time. Even the County report states on Page 4 “…the applicant has succeeded in accomplishing almost all of their goals to expand the outdoor seating area while complying with all ordinances.”

    4) Precedence – judgment is required in many situations and this is no different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In this case, the surrounding community, through their Civic Associations, have overwhelmingly voted to support the live music permit application, under conditions ironed out through community dialogue. That certainly sets precedence for community engagement as part of the permit process. The County Board also has authority to approve or deny any future requests, so the only precedent being set is whether judgment should be applied in specific cases, or all live-music applications should be rejected out of hand. If this application doesn’t meet the test then what will?

    I am sympathetic to the noise issue raised by the residents whose homes live behind the Beer Garden. That is why, at a meeting on the Beer Garden, I proposed installation of a physical sound barrier to block sound bouncing towards neighboring homes. It is why I supported cutoff times and limited days for live music, and it’s why I have supported the efforts of the Westover Civic Association to hold open community meetings and to come up with workable solutions. And now I support the outcome of those community discussions, which resulted in strong vote of support for the live music application, along with conditions designed to protect local residents, and safeguards to address future issues if they arise.

    I am less sympathetic to arguments that the Westover Market should be “punished” for experimenting with their business and trying new things without first navigating the confusing labyrinth of County permitting and zoning regulations. Or to the “slippery slope” argument that approval of the live music permit will set a precedent that unleashes a cacophony of noise upon Arlington neighborhoods. Or to the argument that the Market might be out-of-compliance at some future point in time so they should be denied a permit today. The first is unnecessarily punitive, and the second two are speculative, and for each of these arguments there are clear solutions that have been recommended. Unfortunately, these arguments form the core of the County Staff recommendation, but they should not be the basis for the County Board’s decision.

    The County Board should APPROVE the live music permit over the Staff recommendation IF the messages that they want to convey are: we support small family-owned business trying to thrive, gathering the input and support of local neighborhoods is important, common sense and discretionary judgment is required in zoning decisions, and the achievement of balanced and workable solutions is the ultimate goal.

    If the County Board accepts the Staff recommendation and REJECTS the permit application, they will be sending an altogether different set of messages: a) don’t ask for County permission or you might end up paying thousands of dollars to correct “problems” you didn’t know you had; b) don’t try anything that hasn’t been done before because the County won’t approve it; c) don’t try and work with the County Zoning Staff because even if you do what they ask they will still deny your request at the 11th hour; and d) don’t try and work through a community engagement process with neighboring Civic Associations because it doesn’t matter anyway.

    I am hopeful that the County Board sends a clear signal by choosing the former course of action, and APPROVING the Westover Market permit application.

    • ArlingtonNative

      +100×10

      I vote for Alan as next county board Chairman.

      And.. no apology needed for the length of a thoughtful and well written statement in support of your position. Too bad the county staff do not put the same degree of thought and consideration into their work!

    • Sue

      Well said, Alan. Thank you!!!

    • Arlwhenever

      Anyone who thinks that sound barriers work just sidle right up to one of those barrier walls next to an interstate and take in the aural din. Sounds are propagated by waves and waves deflect and echo, with the lowest, most disturbing registers, surving the best. A sound barrier is no solution. No outdoor permit should be allowed unless there is a buffer of commericial, industrial between the source and residential property, such that the noise ordinance would not be violated.

    • Heather

      Thank you Alan for your comments – I am a huge fan of the Westover market and surrounding independent businesses. This shopping area survives because it is a neighborhood center, and the beer garden has become a family-friendly gathering place for the neighborhood.
      I see no reason why our government should stand in the way of it –
      especially with so much clear community support.

    • BrownFlipFlops

      Golf clap. Well said, Alan.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Alan, if you ever run for County Board, you will have my vote for sure.

    • dynaroo

      Well said, Alan. You said what most posters here missed:

      1. Complaints about noise are perfectly legitimate.

      2. This permit would put in place a compromise designed to mitigate those complaints.

      • Sue

        +1000

    • jan

      Appears the “Arlington Way” has been derailed by staff.

      • dynaroo

        Staff make recommendations, but the Board gets to actually decide.

  • Drew

    They really mentioned a “history of noncompliance”? Was the market ever actually fined or cited for any compliance issues, or is the county just trying to rewrite the public record?

    Maybe Hicks made some enemies downtown with his comments about the Arlington processes turning him into a Republican.

    • dynaroo

      The history of noncompliance apparently refers to the fact that they had live music without a permit previously, whether or not they were cited for it.

      • Frog

        The staff report says they were cited.

      • HC Carey

        Nah, the non-compliance goes beyond that. thy’ve never really had a permit for the beer garden itself or for the number of people they serve. It’s still not clear to me how they even got the right to take what seems to me to be a public space.

        I WANT the beer garden to stay and to thrive. But in fairness, the county has a point about non-compliance

  • Paco

    The problem ain’t the noise. It’s $9 for a beer. C’mon Devin, let the average man drink, not just those rich Westover lawyer types.

    • Wow. I have not been there yet. Suddenly I can’t see myself swilling $9 beers next to a bunch of 6-year olds.

      • charlie

        in an alley way between a grocery store and a federal post office. buffered by a parking garage and a major state road.
        desperation breeds innovation i suppose.

      • HC Carey

        Not seeing you there sounds good to me

        • And better to me. If you ask me, alcohol and Romper Room is a dangerous mix. Hopefully NONE of you drinking with your children drive there and you don’t get so plastered that even walking home with your kids endangers them.

          • dynaroo

            Drinking and driving is dangerous without children in the car too, ya know.

          • HC Carey

            Nobody asked you, though–di you notice that?

  • Brendan

    lets be honest. what kind of music are they going to play here? probably acoustic sets. they’re not going to be rocking out like they do at black cat and sometimes iota. ANd like most places, you could put in a noise ordinance at a certain hour.

  • WestoverAndOver

    The beers do not all cost $9, though one criticism is that they should really consider offering at least one “cheapie” light beer if you’re not in the mood for a heavy IPA. I have seen $9 offerings but they are not the only thing consistently available. The photo is representative of the early crowd at the market, but at some point the kids do go home. When the market closes, it is on to the Forrest Inn. If I did not live in the neighborhood and have children, I would opt to go elsewhere, but for people in my boat it is a great place. Thanks, Alan, for the best comment of the thread. Entirely accurate.

    • dynaroo

      The cheapest is usually something like $5 though. I have never bought a beer there without thinking it was overpriced.

      • Me

        If you want a Miller Lite for $3.50, Forest Inn is right down the block. Most beers on tap at the Beer Garden are microbrews, which obviously cost more.

  • LC

    Well said Alan. Love the BG, bring my kids there all the time and most of all I love that they’ve found a way to keep the Market open and meaningful to the community. When I was a kid, it was the primary grocery store for the neighborhood … Hard to imagine now and they certainly couldn’t exist if the model were to try to be that again.

    Gotta say though … I am actually with the neighbors on the music issue even though personally I have enjoyed having music in Westover. Of course folks want a party spot myself included … But those folks didn’t sign on to live next to a live music venue. It’s a tough call.

  • PigPen

    If the county really wanted to reduce the noise annoyance level of working class residents, then they could make a much bigger dent by patrolling the neighborhood by Washington-Lee HS and wiping out the proliferation of 20-somethings that have nothing better to do every weekend but blast music and set up beer pong tournaments in their yards. All while letting their grass grow 2 feet high, hogging up all the parking on the street, leaving beer cups and litter everywhere, and using the neighborhood as an outdoor toilet. Live next to those people for awhile and you’d embrace the beer garden as a fortress of solitude.

  • Rob

    The Westover Beer Garden has amassed quite a throng of supporters – I wonder if the commissioners are considering their re-elections when deciding this issue. I can easily see this becoming a campaign issue.

  • HC Carey

    I’m a neighbor, and live about 200 yards from the beer garden, on the other side of the old Reed school. Im also a semi-pro musician and gig regularly all over the DC area.

    We can hear the music clearly from our house. We don’t mind, we like it and think it makes the neighborhood feel more lively, although sometimes it’s been pretty bad music. But we can hear it very clearly. And having played 100s of gigs in places like that, where there is no soundman, I know how volume only ever goes up, not down. Ba player can’t quite hear himself, he turns up, guitar player turns up, drummer hits harder, etc etc. It’s extremely hard to stop. So while I like the music, and would not mind if it stayed, some of my neighbors don’t like it, and I doubt they could keep the music within the stated decibel level.

    I have to admit I think the county staff may be right on this, even though personally I like the music.

    My wife and I go down to the beer garden often, and we bring our daughter. If that offends you, there are many bars in Arlington where kids don’t go.

    • Brock

      Kudos to you for having objectivity enough to care about the needs of others, despite your own enjoyment of live music.

      What I don’t get is: Why is it supposedly so crucial to have live music there? The place already gets plenty of business. People seem to enjoy it already. Why do they need the music?

      Second question: If it’s been determined that the beer garden cannot survive without live music, then why couldn’t it just be one person with an acoustic guitar and no amplification? The garden is small, so certainly the guitar could be heard by the garden-goers.

      • dynaroo

        Great questions. I’ve seen the place packed without any music.

      • HC Carey

        I agree–I don’t see where live music is vital. It’s often packed with no music at all.

        Here’s how it happens with volume. Singer shows up with acoustic guitar, starts playing, andas soon as it gets crowded he can’t hear himself over people talking. So he brings and amp, so he can hear himself, and that makes people talk louder, so he turns up the amp, people talk louder, etc etc. No musician wants to play a gig where he can’t hear himself–it’s kind of pointless

      • Sue

        They make a lot less money without the music, and they need this revenue stream to support the market. The county planner hasn’t looked at their books or their business plan – he just looked at the constituency on the night they were doing their sound testing, which was a night that there was live music. I don’t think its the planner’s purview to say he has enough business.

        His report also considers only the comments sent directly to him, ignoring the hundreds of comments sent to the county board, staff liasion Hunter Allen, support on the Facebook page and petition. It seems that the report is incomplete.

    • Me

      I live past Patrick Henry on 18th Street . . . and I agree. I can hear it sometimes with the window open and I’ve remarked to my wife on more than a few occassions last year, “doesn’t bother me, but I can’t believe they’re getting away with it.” I otherwise fully support the BG.

  • John Fontain

    Most would agree that the beer garden is an overall plus to the neighborhood. Most would also not want it backing up to their own yard, especially if live music was playing.

    • nonagon

      This is precisely why compromises are made, and strict guidelines provided for the establishment to follow. The music volume will stay within the legal limit, will end at a reasonable hour, Wednesdays, Friday and Saturday only. Plus it will likely be that two of the three allowed nights, at least initially, are acoustic acts, with Saturdays allowing amplified music, again with volume staying within the legal decibel limits. The beer garden does not want to annoy its neighbors, and will be focused on compliance.

  • Brandon C

    The problem is simply that Westover is a condensed area with many small homes on small plots of land and with no tall buildings in the way, sound travels far and loud.

    Sorry, but this isn’t Clarendon. It’s a relatively quiet residential neighborhood. People who live in Westover aren’t interested in having hopping live music while they try to put their kids to bed early. I’m a huge live music fan and probably go to DC9, Iota, Black Cat or 9:30 club several times a month, but if I lived on U Street or at the corner of Garfield & Wilson, I’d expect to hear loud music occasionally. Westover residents never had such expectations. It’s still the freakin’ suburbs, people.

    • Tooth Fairy

      *Some* people in Westover aren’t interested in allowing live music, within legal sound limits and during limited hours, at the Beer Garden. An overhwhelming majority of the Westover residents who voted in the civic association’s poll supported live music at the beer garden.

      • John Fontain

        But the overwhelming majority of Westover residents don’t live in a house that directly abuts the beer garden.

        How about this for an idea – If there is a group of several Westover residents who support live music at a beer garden, why don’t you offer up your collective backyards to the Market’s owner and the beer garden can relocate to your backyards. You’ll get all the live music you can stand and you won’t have to walk far to get to the beer garden.

        Seriously, I’d like to see how many Westover residents would volunteer to do this.

        Simply put, everyone likes the idea of the beer garden, but nobody – and I mean nobody – would want it in their own back yard.

        • Tooth Fairy

          John,

          Are you the one that one that lives in the house with your wife and two kids directly behind the parking lot in line with the Beer Garden. If so, you sounded reasonable at the Westover meeting we had a few weeks ago.

          I’m pretty sure Devin and members of the community conducted sounds tests and, based on my understanding, the local residents and Devin were able to come to an agreement on decibel level. But apparently, you were one of the eight people who voted against it.

          It’s an interesting issue.

          • John Fontain

            Nope, I don’t even live in the neighborhood. Just trying to look at this issue from both perspectives.

        • the native

          You say this again and again. You are full of it. Bring it on. Can I get zoning to sing off on serving beer in my back yard with live music? Bring it on. You are all welcome at my place.

    • the native

      And yet the Civic Association meetings directly dispute your claim that ‘People who live in Westover aren’t interested in having hopping live music…’ Because they have voted for it in great numbers.

  • Alan Howze

    A number of comments on this thread have set up a false dichotomy – that there is either loud music that disturbs the neighborhood or no music at all. Those are not the only two options.

    The question is not whether the Beer Garden should play music at the same volume as last year – nobody is proposing that – but whether a live music permit can be issued that has reasonable limitations. As many have noted, homeowners are not protected from all noise (just ask those who live next to I-66 or the Metro, or Yorktown or W&L), but as others have also noted, there is a reasonable expectation that noise will not be overly intrusive.

    In fact, finding the balance point that would allow live music at reasonable hours (2-3 days a week and no later than 10pm) and reasonable volume (65 decibel limit at the fence line), and create a community liaison to resolve future issues, are the recommendations that emerged from the community dialogue that past winter / spring.

    The Board could approve the permit, at least on a conditional or trial basis, under the conditions developed and approved by the local Civic Associations. And if future adjustments need to be made then by all means the issue should be revisited – but don’t kill the live music before allowing the new restrictions to be road-tested.

    • Tooth Fairy

      Right on, Alan! Sounds like a reasonable proposal to me. Let’s hope the board ignores the recommendation of the county staff.

    • John Fontain

      Alan,

      Are you o.k. with the beer garden moving to your abutting neighbor’s yard?

      • Aaron

        The beer garden doesn’t abut anyone’s yard though John. A shopping center parking lot currently serves as a buffer between the beer garden and the backyards of those individuals who chose to live adjacent to commercial-zoned real estate.

        • John Fontain

          Fair enough, there is some degree of separation. I still wonder whether anyone would be willing to have the garden relocate to within this distance to their house.

        • HC Carey

          It’s true there is a bit of a buffer. But as I osted above, we live about 200 yards away, on the other side of the Reed school, and we could hear it every time last year.

          Personally I’d vote for the music. I didn’t mind it. But the people who complain aren’t imagining it. I’m sorry they are aggrieved by it, but they have rights too.

          • Skeptical

            Thanks for remarking that people who complain about noise pollution “aren’t imagining it.”

            I remain amazed by the people who think that if they like a certain kind of noise, everyone else must like that kind of noise too or else is a mean awful killjoy.

            Rhythmic, amplified din drives me out of my skull; I can’t sleep or concentrate even when a faint amount of it reaches me in my house. I did buy the house, as Westover residents did, and don’t have the option of clearing out and relocating somewhere else on a thin dime, as some people seem to imagine. I do call the cops when people violate local ordinance and host parties with amped music in their backyards. I know of no code of decency that requires me to give up my serenity or sleep to someone else’s need for “fun.”

            It’s one thing to buy a home expecting a certain amount of random traffic in the daytime — people buying groceries, entering and exiting restaurants — and quite another to find you are being treated to hours at a time of boom-boom or strum-strum, of a kind you may cordially loathe.

          • nonagon

            The decibel level will be within the legal limit, and the music will stop at a reasonable hour.

    • me

      A trial basis is really a weak move. Either do it or don’t. If there’s concerns be conservative about it at first, but you can’t invest in a business on a trial basis…. Just man up and make a decision.

  • The Native

    They are welcome in my neighborhood. Hell put them in my driveway three times a week. Sounds like fun, unlike some people…

  • Sue

    Northside Social played live, amplified music on their outdoor patio on Thursday night. Anyone know how they got a permit?

  • MayorOfWestover

    I smell a Ross.

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