By John Schaffner
With at least two dozen liquor licenses issued within a four-block area bordered by West Paces Ferry, Roswell Road and East Andrews Drive, it might be said the old Buckhead Village party scene has just moved to West Village.
But that may also include one big headache — parking spaces.
The difference, according to Buckhead’s chief cheerleader Sam Massell, however, is that there haven’t been the complaints about rowdiness, petty crime, knifings and shootings that finally brought the demise of the old Buckhead Village on the other side of Peachtree Road.
“What it says is that the Village is still the center of Buckhead nightlife and it can be good for Buckhead as long as it is orderly,” Massell said.
But, just as parking was a problem with the former Buckhead Village, it is also a perceived quandary for the new West Village bar, lounge and restaurant scene.
An application for a special exception to parking requirements for a proposed restaurant/lounge named Altitude at 3184 Roswell Road, caused the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit B to question if the bars in the Irby Street area of the West Village are playing a shell game in order to get their licenses approved.
When lawyer M. Hakim Hillard brought the Altitude request for a parking exception before the NPU-B Public Safety Committee in September, he was asked to provide a letter showing he had secured the exclusive use of 32 parking spaces in the area by the bar taking over the space of the former Tabu Boutique. The applicant returned for the full NPU board meeting with five letters guaranteeing 32 specifically designated parking spaces during the bar’s hours of operation, along with a map showing the location of the spaces.
Sally Silver, chair of the Transportation & Development Committee of NPU-B suggested that the NPU needs the city to take a closer look at the entire Irby Street/Roswell Road area of the West Village to see if there are enough parking spaces to cover the various licenses that have been issued for bars, lounges and restaurants.
Although the NPU board passed the request for the special parking exception, the request was then deferred because the city was not convinced, like some members of the NPU board, that those were real spaces that had not already been committed to other establishments.
Executive Parking Systems provides valet parking services for several of the establishments in the area and had helped Altitude obtain the letters guaranteeing the parking spaces.
Silver and a friend stopped off in the area for a glass of wine following the NPU meeting and were told by the valet people there that “all the valet people use all the spaces. They all belong to the same guy.” They indicated they park cars in the spaces in question “all the time.”
The spaces the valet services use primarily belong to retail establishments in the area that close before the bars become busy—including places like Henris Bakery on Irby and the boutiques and specialty shops.
Robin Loudermilk, whose father Charles, is renovating the Roxy Theater for a Buckhead entertainment spot, agrees there is a lack of parking in that area. His family owns a surface lot just north of the Roxy at the corner of Roswell Road and Irby Street and would like to develop it with a parking garage and retail. “We will need that to also fill the parking needs for the Roxy,” he said.