Published on March 11th, 2015 |1
West Village bars bend the rules, beg forgiveness
The norm seems to be to build whatever they want and wait to see if the city code enforcement people come around and notice that a structure was added without proper permits or that the
bar operator opens up auxiliary space in an adjacent building without getting a liquor license.
Then, if and when they are cited and issued a non-compliance notice, the bar operators come and seek forgiveness and the right to continue operating in space that was not properly permitted in the first place.
BuckheadView readers may recall the months of controversy last year involving the Park Bench bar on Irby Avenue, which had built a patio deck behind its facility without obtaining the proper permits and which closed off the alley and removed the parking spaces that legally belonged to the adjacent animal hospital.
The Development Review Committee of SPI-9 (Special Public Interest district), which reviews all projects that require Special Administrative Permits (SAPs) from the city of Atlanta, once again heard one of these cases on March 4 involving the Lost Dog Tavern, 3182 Roswell Road NW.
Attorney Dwayne Martin, who was new at representing Lost Dog Tavern, knew when he entered the DRC meeting that things likely were not going to go well for him or his client. The bar had received a non-compliance notice for adding front and back patios without obtaining an SAP or building permits.
However, he was there primarily regarding the bar having arranged for adequate parking required by the city for operating the business, which he said opens at 5 p.m.
He pointed out that Lost Dog Tavern has been operating under an “existing SAP” which called for three parking spaces onsite and the remaining 33 offsite at a location where the bar had exclusive use of the parking spaces during its hours of operation.
Now that the patio has been added to the front of the Lost Dog Tavern, the three onsite parking spaces no longer exist. But Martin claimed the tavern still retains 33 parking spaces offsite at 3155 Roswell Road under an agreement that was signed and approved in 2011.
But the approval of that parking agreement was challenged by the DRC members, who claimed that it was not approved by them because forcing customers to cross Roswell Road at night at that location is extremely dangerous.
The problem for Lost Dog Tavern is that it cannot go to the city’s Building Department for a building permit for the patio spaces that have already been built out until the owners can show they have valid agreements for the required amount of parking.
Martin told the DRC members that the tavern’s owner had secured agreement to use 33 parking spaces at 3210 Roswell Road, a small strip shopping center with businesses that close at night. Martin said the tavern only opens at 9 p.m., but its application said it opens at 5 p.m.
Martin said the authorization for the parking spaces at 3210 was attached to the application to the city, but the DRC members said they did not have a copy of a valid authorization paper. There also was a question as to the validity of parking permission offsite at 3172 Roswell Road.
Denis Starling, who represents Livable Buckhead on the DRC, told the other committee members that Lost Dog Tavern came before the committee before any of the building work was done.
“They knew what the process was,” Starling said. “However, they ignored that, which shows they are not good landlords or business owners.”
Bob Stasiowski, who represents Neighborhood Planning Unit-B on the DRC, told Martin that the DRC needs to see detailed plans for both patio decks and see that they meet all aspects of the building standards connected with SPI-9 regulations—including detailed elevations and measurements.
Another problem that came up was that there is a separate outside bar that has been shut down by the Atlanta Police Department for lack of a liquor license. According to Martin, the Fulton County Health Department is holding up the issuance of the license, likely based on not having city permits for the structure.
The SPI-9 DRC seems to be running into three major problems on a somewhat regular basis now involving bar, and sometimes restaurant, operations in the West Village: illegally building onto the facilities without obtaining proper DRC review and city permits, operating illegal bars without getting the proper additional liquor licenses and ignoring the DRC’s requirements for meeting SPI-9 zoning regulations after being permitted by the city.
Another problem the DRC runs into constantly is knowing that there are not enough parking spaces in the West Village area to accommodate all the requirements of the bars and restaurants there that all claim they have exclusive agreements for use of spaces.
The major problem seems to be one of enforcement by the city of Atlanta, both through routine checks of these establishments and through follow-up on permits issued to see that conditions on those permits are being met.
BuckheadView recently heard about another interesting violation case, which we hope to report on in greater depth in the near future.
This case involves another bar in the same row of entertainment establishments along Roswell Road. It was discovered that the bar had taken over an adjacent structure that had previously been an auto repair shop and was using it has an overflow operation for its bar without obtaining a liquor license and while retaining the auto business sign on the building.
Stay tuned for more interesting BuckheadView stories from the West Village bar operations.