[Editor’s note: Gwen Lewis’ letter has been edited on 2/22 to remove her address and phone number.]
Online reactions to The Oak, the new restaurant/bar planned to open soon on Beacon Avenue South, have generally been positive. However, not everyone is thrilled about the new business. Residents living in the area around the Oak, at 3019 Beacon Ave. S., recently found flyers on their doorsteps bearing the headline “Are You Aware?”
“Are you aware that there is a pending application with the Washington State Liquor Control Board for our new neighbor @ 3019 Beacon Ave. South to operate a TAVERN in our neighborhood? … This will definitely impact all of us (positive or otherwise) but the bottom line is that we should have a say about this matter. We are asking you to get involved!”
The flyer suggests sending objections to Alan Rathbun of the Liquor Control Board, as well as to James Kenny, the Assistant City Attorney, then ends with the appeal “Act Now … Participate … Beacon Hill is also yours!”
Redd Mateo is the contact person listed on the flyer. The Beacon Hill Blog asked Mateo how many people are involved in the group protesting The Oak, and he said “I can’t tell you that as of yet but from the initial input we gather, there is a good number of neighbors (mostly with children).” Asked about his group’s specific concerns with The Oak, he listed several potential issues: littering, noise, crowd control, and public urination. “The bar they operate in Capitol Hill opens from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Assuming that they close at 10 p.m., who will stop them from extending those hours to 2 a.m.?”
Mateo forwarded a letter written by another neighbor, Gwen Lewis, addressed to the Liquor Control Board and objecting to The Oak’s liquor license. (Read the letter here.) Lewis’ letter includes a concern that “…Beacon Baptist Church, Beacon Lutheran Church, and the Beacon Hill Library may be within 500 feet.” (According to Google Maps, the Oak would be roughly 630 feet from the front door of the Library, about 730 from the Baptist Church, and roughly 800 feet from the front door of the Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church no longer operates but there is still a preschool on the site.)
The letter also alleges “chronic illegal activity (Per RCW 66.24.010) associated with the applicants operations of the premises proposed to be licensed AND the applicant’s operation of another licensed premise.” The letter then describes circumstances at the owners’ other establishment, The Redwood, back in 2006 when the bar had newly opened and had problems with some of its neighbors on Capitol Hill, who complained about noise and filed a zoning complaint with the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). However, The Redwood’s case with the DPD has been closed since 2007 and the business is still operating at the same location on Capitol Hill.
Other allegations in the letter include statements that the Oak’s owners have worked on the property without permits and were issued a violation, and that representatives of the Oak “informed neighbors that the applicant was opening up a coffee shop (but) on February 6 the applicant posted a liquor license application notice.” According to the DPD website, there was a complaint and violation last month, but the Oak’s owners have also received two permits since that date.
Lewis’ letter also brings up the 2008 shooting at the Beacon Pub, limited parking in the area, and a “known drug area at nearby Triangle Park” (Stevens Place Park) as additional reasons to object to the Oak’s liquor license application.
Lisa Jack, one of the co-owners of The Oak, was shocked to hear about the flyers and the opposition by these neighbors. She told the BHB, “When buying this building we were told that Beacon Hill would support this move wholeheartedly as they were looking for new fun businesses. The Redwood is an entirely different establishment in an entirely different neighborhood; it would be lovely if one of these disgruntled people would just come talk to us.”
She added, “We have been very honest with everyone, even in the early stages of not knowing what it would be… we have said ‘restaurant/lounge that will serve children as well in the dining area.’ We intend The Oak will be a neighborhood place for Beacon Hill residents and we hope to have weekend brunch too.”
Mateo and Lewis are concerned that The Oak, as a drinking establishment, won’t be a good fit for the location, which is a commercial building but has residences directly adjacent to the south and west. Mateo said, “Please don’t get me wrong. I really welcome new business in our neighborhood… just like that new pizza place. What a great place. But a tavern is totally different. This is something that will impact a lot of people in the neighborhood.”
Jack, who along with co-owner Mat Brooke is moving to the neighborhood herself, is disappointed at the turn of events. “It seems like the responses in your blog as well as passers-by have been very excited by what we are doing. It breaks my heart that we may have to struggle once again to make a good honest business.”