Friday, September 10, 2010

Silent All These Beers: Step Up To Save Westover Market Beer Garden

Want to know how insane the partying gets at the Westover Market Beer Garden? Check out this picture of a typical rowdy night from the Save Westover Market Beer Garden Facebook group:
Yes, that's what Westover's NIMBYs & Arlington County's Zoning Commissioner are spending so much time & energy on: A guy who looks like Pacey from Dawson's Creek playing adult contemporary. When neighbors complain about "noise," you have to wonder what standard they're using. Are they balancing what's easily-ignored with what's actually loud? Or are they saying, "It was completely silent before, now I can hear something, therefore I'm calling the authorities"?

The question remains, is fun public enemy #1 in Arlington? Got this response to my post from Maureen Dilg, writing on behalf of the Arlington County Office of Communications (reprinted here in its entirety):
Due to complaints from neighbors about excessive noise from the outdoor area..., Arlington County zoning inspectors are investigating zoning violations brought against Westover Market. Westover Market has appropriate approvals for seasonal outdoor seating for nine people. The purpose of this seating is outdoor dining.

The space is being used for more than nine people and live bands are entertaining clientele. Having live, musical entertainment requires a public hearing before the Arlington County Board. Should Westover Market choose to apply for a Live Entertainment Use Permit, the County Board will weigh measures that will minimize the adverse impacts of its use on its neighbors.

All Arlington County residents and businesses are expected to comply with the requirements of local ordinances.
I appreciate Ms. Dilg's response, but according to, she's not telling the whole story here. Westover Market did apply for a permit to seat up to 24, but the county denied it on the grounds that the bathroom was insufficient. So, to review:
  • Cite business for seating more than 9 people
  • When said business applies to seat more, deny it
  • When people complain about you harassing a business for doing well, say they don't have the right permit, which you denied
  • Repeat
But as I said in my first post, I understand the zoning regulations & don't dispute Westover Market needs to meet them. The question is, do you work with the business that's clearly tapped a niche in the community (the Facebook group is approaching 300 members at this writing) to keep a good thing going? Or do you shut down the live music effective immediately & force them through a regulatory steeplechase

Arlington County has clearly chosen the latter. Nine people on the patio sitting quietly? Fine. Ten people on the patio with toddlers dancing to Jack Johnson covers? HAVE SOME COUNTY BOOT ON THE BACK OF YOUR NECK, HIPPIES.

As TBD reported, there's a question of community character at stake:
Daniel Weir, another patron of the garden, wrote to us to say that the garden is part of the reason he’s considering settling down in Westover. “[The beer garden] is a piece of what makes Westover magic — the combination of a truly residential neighborhood that has a spice of urban vitality. Without it and the atmosphere that it helps create, Westover would be like a slightly older, less wealthy McLean,” he says.
According to the Facebook group, fans of the Westover Market Beer Garden are asking supporters to email Arlington County Zoning Commisioner Melinda Artman at, letting her know that you want Arlington to work with Westover Market to keep the Beer Garden thriving.


MB said...

So, am I understanding correctly that they applied for a permit for outdoor entertainment, were denied it, went ahead with the outdoor entertainment, and now it's the county's fault?

Is this like the Case of the Great Stolen Screwtop Sign that turned out to be an enforcement action after the Screwtop owner was warned multiple times about it?

tavener98742597 said...

The problem is that the County is attacking successful businesses for 1) being successful and 2) bringing the type of vitality that the County wants. The one hand doesn't know that it's being eaten by the other.

TheGreenMiles said...

Almondwine, great point. Few businesses can truly be said to be generating new business in the county - if I go to Restaurant 3, I'm just spending money there that I'd have spent anyway at Whitlow's, EatBar, etc. But there's nothing else like the Beer Garden in Westover. If families weren't able to have a beer there - very close to home & very kid friendly - most would just be hanging out at home or at a park.