Proposed restaurant in Avondale seeks parking relief, exception

Proposed restaurant in Avondale seeks parking relief, exception
Floor plan of proposed BMR Dining Group restaurant, also includes 20 outside seats (may be relocated to interior space at any time).

A new 120-seat restaurant is planned for Avondale and the restaurateur is not planning to provide additional parking.

BMR Dining Group is seeking a deviation from minimum parking requirements and a zoning exception for sale and service of liquor, as well as outside sales and service.

The Planning Commission will hear public comment about the proposed restaurant on Thursday, Aug. 4, 1 p.m., in Council Chambers at City Hall, 117 W. Duval St.

The administrative deviation (AD-16-51) and the zoning exception (E-16-48) were filed July 13, 2016 by Leah Walker, of Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne, on behalf of the property owner, Thomas Rodman Lee, for his tenant, BMR Dining Group, LLC.

BMR Dining Group is proposing to open a restaurant and wine bar at 3563 St. Johns Avenue in the space formerly occupied by Cowford Traders, which closed its doors in March after 14 years in business.

The future tenant in Cowford Trader’s location seeks to reduce the minimum number of off-street parking spaces required to zero and to reduce the number of off-street loading spaces to zero.

Correspondence between Walker and Aaron Glick, Planner with the City’s Planning and Development Department, indicates although the request should be for a reduction from 18 spaces to eight based on applied Riverside Avondale Overlay standards, Walker responded her client would not provide any off-street parking.

The application states there are “practical difficulties in adding any number of parking spaces to serve patrons and employees at the subject address. There is no space to add parking spaces in or around the Shoppes of Avondale, making it impossible to carry out the strict letter of the regulation. Additionally, the subject property was developed prior to the current standards for off-street parking.”

BMR Dining Group’s application also states the original development of the Shoppes of Avondale as a town square with retail shops and services was intended to be served by on-street parking and a high volume of pedestrian traffic.

The application for the 120-seat restaurant notes it is “substantially less intense” than two 100-seat restaurants, as permitted by the Zoning Code. Alternatively, the 5,450-square-foot space could be divided into two smaller restaurants legally requiring no off-street parking, due to an ordinance passed in June 2012 amending the Riverside Avondale Overlay.

Sponsored by District 14 Councilman Jim Love, Ordinance 2012-339 requires new restaurants in the Historic District with more than 100 seats and/or 2,500 square feet of space to provide 50 percent of the parking provision. Conversely, the amendment does not require smaller restaurants (up to 100 seats) to contribute to parking.

Previously, the Overlay provided a variance for zero parking for contributing historic structures that were not expanded, regardless of the type of new business succeeding the former occupant of the space.

A floor plan included with the application indicates a bar with 12 seats, 15 tables in the restaurant proper with 56 seats and two private dining rooms, which would seat an additional 32 diners, plus kitchen, storage, office and restrooms, as well as space for 20 seats on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. Currently, all of the 14 restaurants, bars and specialty food services, such as Peterbrooke Chocolate, Florida Creamery, Fro You and Le Macaron, located in the Shoppes of Avondale offer outside seating.

Lee, the property owner, also filed for a zoning exception to allow full service of all alcoholic beverages, and for outdoor sales and service. Current CCG-1 (Community General Commercial) zoning permits retail sales and service of beer and wine for on-premises consumption in conjunction with a restaurant, but a zoning exception is required to permit the sale of liquor. The applicant’s proposed use will operate under a Special Restaurant (SRX) license, which requires food sales generate 51 percent of the restaurant revenue.

An applicant for an SRX must be a bona fide restaurant consisting of 2,500 up to 5,000 square feet of floor space under a permanent cover (depending on county), maintain seating and equipment for serving 150 up to 250 patrons at tables at one time (depending on county) and which derives at least 51% of its gross revenue from the sale of food and non-alcoholic beverages.  

House Bill 655, known as the J-Bill, established special zones in Jacksonville to provide approval for space and seating requirements for liquor licenses in those zones, which includes the Shoppes of Avondale. The bill allows restaurants with less than 150 seats, such as Biscottis, to apply for an SRX liquor license. Biscottis’ application was recently approved to permit the sale of liquor.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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