By John Schaffner
Parking in the West Village area of Buckhead again became an issue before Neighborhood Planning Unit B with the application for a parking variance tied to the planned re-opening of the Roxy Theater. This time, however, the discussion was cordial and the vote noncontroversial.
Thirty-One Ten Roswell Road, LLC, a venture of Buckhead business leaders Charles Loudermilk and his son Robin, is renovating the Roxy Theater property to become a new theater and cultural center for the Buckhead Community.
The theater is part of a strip of retail properties that stretch along the west side of Roswell Road from West Paces Ferry Road to Irby Avenue. Loudermilk and his longtime business partner George Rohrig purchased the block and then split it between their two entities, with Loudermilk keeping the theater where he attended movies as a youngster.
The application before the NPU-B board Feb. 2 was for a special exception to reduce the required on-site parking from the city’s required 231 parking spaces to 144 “to allow for the expansion and improvements of a mixed-use development” containing the theater, shops and restaurants.
The improvements amounted to dressing room and restroom facilities as part of the more than $3 million in renovations being done to the Roxy. The reduction in parking actually amounts to only about six spaces, because the elimination of the others had been previously approved.
The availability of sufficient parking in the West Village has been a contentious issue with NPU-B board members, with every application for a new bar, restaurant or other business in that area.
The special exception to the zoning regulations was approved by the NPU-B by a unanimous vote of the 25 board members present, including proxies. .
The theater and neighboring parking lot are the archetype for what Loudermilk describes as “non-income-producing” properties. Initially, Loudermilk planned to build a 15- to 18-story, 270-room hotel on the site after re-purchasing it from Novare Group for $8 million in early 2008. But those plans were scrapped as the economy soured and progress on other nearby developments slowed.
A license application by Gavin H. Abadi for a new bar at 3184 Roswell Road, brought about a slightly more confrontational discussion before both the 6 p.m. Public Safety Committee meeting and the regular NPU-B board meeting that started at 7 p.m.
Abadi’s business listed on the application is Erehwon Hospitality. The name of the bar he plans to open was far less certain. But that was only one of the confusing aspects of the license application discussion.
When the applicants came before NPU-B months ago for a special exception to zoning regulations regarding parking for the new venture, the business was listed as a restaurant with the name of Altitude. But for the Feb. 2 liquor license application presentation to the NPU-B Public Safety Committee and full board, the business type had been changed to a bar and the name presented by the owners was Dive Bar.
During the earlier presentation by the owner’s attorney, a business plan was shown to the board that drew more than a few raised eyebrows. The business plan indicated the “restaurant” would have pole dancing and wet T-shirt limbo contests. The owners now claim that is not part of the plans for the sports bar.
Since there is no kitchen at the location, the only food the owners ever planned to serve was popcorn and hot dogs. “Bar food,” as Abadi put it.
Abadi said he also is a partner in the Twisted Taco restaurant on Wieuca Road in north Buckhead and has been associated with a number of Buckhead bars and restaurants over the past several years. While he claimed there have not been any liquor violations at any of the places he has owned or managed, he did list on the application an outstanding legal case involving him giving a false name to a police officer. The case has not yet been adjudicated.
The NPU’s Public Safety Committee approved the application, but not unanimously. Therefore, the full board had the opportunity to discuss the application and vote separately on it.
The first motion was to deny the application, which failed to pass with a vote of 6 for, 14 against and 5 abstentions. Then a motion to approve the application passed with a vote of 16 for, 4 against and 5 abstentions.
The bar’s application for a special parking exception last year was granted by the Board of Zoning Adjustments, with a couple of conditions. Signs must be placed on the parking spaces in the West Village the bar claims are exclusively leased to it and Abadi must prove each year that the parking space leases remain in effect. Also, there can be no outdoor deck erected in front of the bar along Roswell Road.