Saturday, February 20, 2010

Further Evidence Neighbors Are A Restaurant's Worst Enemy: Ansill Never Allowed To Have Outdoor Seating At Corner Of 3rd & Bainbridge

ansill philadelphia
Ansill: Totally unsuitable for outdoor seating, according to the Queen Village Neighborhood Association | Photo via Google Maps

A couple of weeks back, Grub Street Philadelphia ran an interview with David Ansill about his new gig at Ladder 15. There were also a few questions about his old restaurant Ansill, which closed last summer.

And what do you know... Ansill was never allowed to have outdoor seating because the Queen Village Neighborhood Association wouldn't ok it.
Q. Do you think the neighborhood played a factor? A lot of praised restaurants in that Queen Village/South Street neighborhood have struggled.

[Ansill:] Initially, when I opened up, the Queen Village Neighborhood Association shot me down when I wanted outdoor seating. Which I kind of thought was a no-brainer. It's a beautiful corner and a beautiful visual aspect to have it. They didn't seem happy I was coming in there and cleaning up the corner and making it more of a service to the neighborhood, which is how I thought about it. Even the neighbors that came to the meeting - I was surprised at how adamant they were about it.

I think people are sometimes intimidated by South Street. A lot of my clientele from Pif were from the suburbs; they're not kids anymore and they were concerned about coming down to South Street on a Saturday night with the parking and stuff.

My across-the-street neighbor was the former zoning commissioner [David Auspitz]. I had a couple of tables set out on Bainbridge Street, just for eye candy, to say "Hey, we're open here." We weren't going to seat anyone out there. He said "You can't do that and next time we'll call L&I on you." He never stepped into my place and had no idea what I was doing.
Oh shit, a David Auspitz sighting... Remember him? Kinda makes you long for the good old days...

We kid. Obviously, this Ansill instance of neighbors not allowing the restaurant to have outdoor seating is a moot issue now — the restaurant is closed. But it's still fucking ridiculous. And a perfect example of how fucking stupid neighbors are when it comes to restaurants. (Or, actually, when it comes to everything.)

Moreover, all it takes is for a handful of dumb, small-minded neighbors to show up and complain to block anything, because even though the vast majority of rational people would support a restaurant adding beautiful outdoor seating to the neighborhood, in most cases people don't go to neighborhood association meetings to support a restaurant, probably because people usually have better things to do than to go to a neighborhood association meeting about a restaurant's no-brainer request for outdoor seating.

Which brings us to the news that there's an upcoming neighborhood zoning meeting for Stephen Starr's planned Fishtown beer garden. It's safe to assume that said meeting could turn into a veritable shitshow.

Remember that Fishtown neighbors somehow killed the Jumbo Theater project two years ago over ridiculous noise concerns for a venue that is literally located under the Market-Frankford El, but was going to allegedly bring more noise than the fucking El. On a completely commercial, non-residential corner of Girard.

So if that's any indication, the Starr beer garden zoning meeting could have its fill of self-interested batshit crazies.

The meeting notice:
A proposal for a beer garden & restaurant by Stephen Starr at 1208-1214 Frankford Ave. The meeting will take place at the Fishtown Rec Center, 1202 E. Montgomery Ave. All residents of Fishtown are eligible to vote. Please bring proof of residence in the form of a driver's license or a photo id and a recent piece of mail addressed to your home.

More info from an neighbor's email:

General:

Roland Kassis (spelling?) is the developer. He owns several properties in our immediate area, particularly along the Frankford corridor. He has a long term development plan and is requesting the assitance [sic] and support from the immediate neighbors to realize his vision.

Roland developed numerous properties in N. Liberties (where he lives) and also developed the houses on Mercer Street between F-ford and Crease.

The property under consideration for the Stephen Starr restaurant is on Frankford Ave, beginning next to the Acropolos diner (Frankford and Girard) and spans approximately 100 yards towards Frankford and Thompson.

The concept under consideration is a Bier Garten with ~250 seats. This concept would be co-development with prominent restauranteur [sic] Stephen Starr who will operate the establishment similar to his other businesses. The property has a courtyard type space and plans include using this outdoor space.

As with all other Stephen Starr restaurants, this property would have an open kitchen until 11:00 PM and remain open for drinking/socializing until 2:00 AM.

The expected timeline includes a more formal zoning hearing towards the end of February. Notices will be circulated as will a message on this e-mail list. ALL NEIGHBORS ARE URGED TO ATTEND. Finances and agreements are secure and the intent is to begin building ASAP after approval is granted.

Concerns:

Parking. The plan includes the use of valet parking and Roland stated he has 70 spaces available with more on the way. Parking will be reasonably priced to be on par with what a patron would pay at a meter. Even with valet service there will undoubtedly be pressure on the immediate area for parking. Efforts are already underway for the 1200 block of Crease Street to move towards permit parking and other immediate streets (Thompson, Day, Leopard) are urged to consider this to help offset this problem. Shackamaxon already has it.

Noise. Houses on Leopard Street will likely bear the brunt of the noise from this project. Roland insisted that he has taken this into consideration and will do everything possible to mitigate noise. Leopard Street residents are strongly urged to attend the zoning hearing to have their concerns heard.

Trash: Roland stated that the dumpsters would be contained inside and the collection company would be instructed for a daily pick-up at 11:00 AM.

Traffic. The concern about valet parking traffic was raised. Parking attendants will need to move cars around rapidly and it is a concern that their route will take them through the immediate blocks.

All in all, it seemed that there is overwhelming support for this exciting project but there is also the expected amount of caution and concern. Please keep your eyes peeled for zoning notices posted at the property as well as circulars in mailboxes regarding the zoning hearing.
Should be a doozy.

But at least Philadelphia is not alone. Take comfort in the fact that idiot neighbors just put the kibosh on a Nolita Shake Shack in Manhattan.

Related:
David Ansill Resurfaces on Sansom Street [ Grub Street Philadelphia ]
Stephen Starr Bier Garden Zoning Meeting 3/2/10 7-8pm [ Philadelphia Speaks ]
Neighbors Successful in Running Shake Shack Out of Nolita [ Eater New York ]

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think this was a good and timely post. Maybe the proper response to a vocal minority of NIMBY's is organizing those who would be in favor of the beer garden. Maybe the Starr restaurant organization should invest a little money to get the word out BEFORE the restaurant is open to build broader support. After all, it says all residents, not just nervous landowners.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you should confuse QVNA with actual residents of Queen Village. The QVNA Board (which for many years was run by ... guess ... Mr. Auspitz) often appears to make up its mind without regard to whether the actual neighbors/residents (or even a bare majority of them) support or agree with the position taken.

Kristy said...

Queen village is a pretty laid back neighborhood and is very welcoming of businesses and restaurants. I think the real problem was that Ansill's food just wasn't great. Philadelphia has great food. You can't expect people to overpay to eat mediocre food. That is why he failed. I don't think anybody can seriously believe that he failed just because he didn't have outside seating.