Press Club

County Board Grants Outdoor Permit with Restrictions for Ballston Bar

The Arlington County Board granted new Ballston bar Bronson a permit for an outdoor patio and live music, following initial wariness from staff and neighbors over bad experiences with its predecessor, A-Town Bar and Grill.

The County Board reviewed a use permit application from Bronson — which is currently under construction atat 4100 N. Fairfax Drive and billed as a German craft beer bar — on Saturday. It unanimously approved the bar’s request to seat patrons along the sidewalk and to host live music.

“There’s not a lot of trust, frankly,” said Board Member Erik Gutshall of the relationship between the neighbors and the bar after years of complaints with A-Town. Bronson is operated by some of the same owners as A-Town.

But Gutshall added that he wanted to give the new establishment an opportunity to prove “you will be good neighbors and you will fit in the community.”

“We don’t even need security here because we’re not bringing that crowd,” said Mike Cordero, one of Bronson’s owners. He acknowledged there was a “stigma” against the bar left over from A-Town.

Bronson originally requested to set up public seating buffered from the sidewalk with a 3-foot-high, removable fence, according to a staff presentation for the Board. Plans indicate that the set up would leave between 7 and 10 feet of sidewalk available for pedestrians.

The Bronson also asked to keep outdoor seating open on Mondays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. The nearby Berkeley and Alta Vista condominium associations requested the patio close by 9 p.m. on Sunday, 10 p.m. on Mondays-Thursdays, and 11 p.m. on Fridays-Saturdays.

“If the Bronson is appearing to be a family-friendly restaurant, if they are seating [and] they are looking to bring in a different kind of clientele, the necessity to stay open until 2 a.m. is slightly befuddling,” said a neighbor, adding of nearby residents: “We all really like to sleep.”

Staff recommended Board members approve the permit, but curb the hours, keep sidewalk space clear, and require regular community meetings and permit reviews.

The County Board approved the Bronson’s request to stay open opening from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and from 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The Board also approved staff recommendation to require the bar to close its outdoor patio by 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and by 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Lee Austin, who lives in the Alta Vista Condominium near the Bronson, said he appreciated the restrictions but added that he wanted the German bar’s new roll-up doors to also close when the patio does to “help ensure quietude” for the neighborhood.

The recommendations come after the bar formerly occupying the space, A-Town, faced permit scrutiny after neighbors said its outdoor patrons were too loud. Police at one point considered it “to be the most troublesome establishment” in the county, generating fights and drunken drivers. The bar was also cited in 2014 for serving patrons outside from an unlicensed “champagne truck.”

County staff also recommended the Board make the permit subject to:

  • An administrative review in August.
  • Another Board vote in October.
  • Quarterly meetings with the Berkeley and Alta Vista condominium associations.

Courthaus Social (formerly Velocity 5) also faced possible outdoor permit restrictions in 2014 due to noise complaints until county staff recommended leniency.

Images 1-2 via Arlington County

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