Kalispell City Council voted this week to deny a planning amendment that would allow an eastside neighborhood coffeehouse to serve beer and wine after multiple residents spoke out in opposition to the proposed move.
The Boiler Room, located on Eighth Street East as part of the Eastside Brick development, requested an amendment to the planned unit development (PUD) for the neighborhood that would allow the establishment to serve beer and wine between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. under an on-premises consumption license.
In their reasoning before the unanimous vote to deny the amendment request, council members said a beer and wine permit would not conform to the underlying residential zoning and would not enhance the historical integrity of the neighborhood.
“It’s not allowed in an R-5 zone and it’s not in the PUD that was granted,” said Councilor Bob Hafferman. “We have to deny it.”
Mayor Tammi Fisher said that while she understands the dynamic nature of business, the eastside neighborhood has already been accommodating by allowing a bakery and a drive-thru window at the coffeehouse.
“This is not a dynamic neighborhood, it’s a historic neighborhood,” Fisher said.
“We understand that business can change and dynamics can change, but this seems like a stretch,” she added.
Before the vote, 14 people spoke about the potential adjustment, 12 of which opposed to the idea. The only two people to speak in favor of the PUD amendment were Vince and Charlette Padilla, the owners of the Boiler Room.
Most opponents said that while they appreciate the Eastside Brick renovation, their main concern was for the safety of the children of the neighborhood who play at Hedges Elementary across the street or ride their bikes on the streets nearby.
Having alcohol for sale in the neighborhood would likely draw in more traffic and possibly lead to drunk-driving encounters along the road.
“I’ve never really been a fuddy-duddy, I can’t believe I’m being one now,” eastside resident Greg Ennis said. “I guess that’s what happens when you have kids.”
There were also assertions that allowing the amendment would set a dangerous precedent for other neighborhoods, as well as worries that the Boiler Room could eventually request allowances for liquor or longer serving hours.
Another eastside resident, Lex Blood, said he enjoyed the Boiler Room’s current atmosphere and offerings, but by adding beer and wine to the equation there would be a “high chance of significantly altering the neighborhood-friendly environment that many have appreciated.”
However, Vince Padilla said that the addition of beer and wine to his menu would not make the Boiler Room a rowdy watering hole.
“Our intention is not to be a bar. We are more of a restaurant that wants to sell beer and wine,” he said. “I’m not into babysitting drunks.”
Padilla said he visited similar neighborhood bars in Seattle and Missoula, and that they appeared to be family gathering places. Charlette Padilla said she has received support for the idea from many families in the neighborhood. Previous public hearings included more supporters.
“I don’t think it has to be us against children or us against families,” she said.
Members of the council lauded the Padillas’ accomplishments with the Eastside Brick building, but agreed with the opposition that the situation could get unwieldy if the PUD amendment were approved.
“I just can’t support something that could have so many unintended consequences,” Councilor Kari Gabriel said.
Gabriel also noted, however, that the Boiler Room could still book musicians and serve alcohol at catered events through the caterers’ license despite the denial of the amendment.
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