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Parking brews at Amato's

Breckenridge Brewery is working to resolve parking issue on the site of this landmark location, which will provide stunning views of the skyline.

Take a parking poll at the end of this blog

Parking – or the lack of it – took center-stage at a neighborhood meeting this week concerning what will be the largest restaurant in the trendy LoHi neighborhood – the latest Breckenridge Brewery restaurant, on the site of the former Amato’s garden decor center, a mainstay of the neighborhood for 88 years.

Close to 50 people attended the Highland United Neighborhs Inc. meeting, which stretched more than three hours last Tuesday to discuss the restaurant, schedule to open in late February in a renovated building, which will include an addition and two patios, including a roof-top deck.

Breckenridge Ale bought the property on April 1 for $2.1 million, according to public records. It will be known as the Ale House at Amato’s, according to Breckenridge Brewery’s liquor license application.

Parking sparks sides

“It was indeed,” a lively meeting, said Kristin Morley, president of HUNI. “It was nothing unexpected. Anything as large as a project like this is going to attract attention.”

The restaurant will run along 16th Street, just across Central Street from the 16th Street pedestrian bridge, which links Lohi to LoDo.

A number of issues were discussed, but the hottest topic was parking. Morley noted that parking already is tight in the neighborhood, and with more businesses, restaurants and residential on the drawing board for the area, that is a problem that is not going to go away.

This notice of the liquor license application is posted on the iron fence surrounding Amato's at 16th and Central streets.

She said that some people at the meeting were concerned how Breckenridge Brewery did its filings, which she said straddle the old and new zoning rules. The site had been zoned PRV, for Platte River Valley zoning, but under the recently enacted zoning law is now zoned C-MX-5, which is an “urban center,” designation.

No brewery opposition present

“There were two sides, but no one (at the meeting) was in opposition to Amato’s/Breckenridge Brewery,” Morley said. “The biggest thing was parking.”

The restaurant owners and representatives said they had reserved 60 nearby parking spaces for five years, with an option to lease them for another five years. However, the owners do not want a permanent parking requirement attached to its liquor license, because if they ever lost their parking spaces, they would lose their ability to serve liquor.

The HUNI board decided to attach a parking requirement to what is called a Good Neighbor Agreement, instead of the liquor license. The GNA is still being drafted by former board member Todd Cole, who said he will have the details worked out before the liquor license hearing on Sept. 17.

“We don’t have the power to veto a liquor license,” Morley said. “But if both sides sign the Good Neighbor Agreement, it does show the temperature of the neighborhood.” If the brewery does not sign the GNA, that would be submitted at the liquor licence hearing.

 Cole, a former HUNI board member and chair of the GNA committee, said he is not publicly stating his thoughts about the new restaurant, because he wants to remain objective when dealing with HUNI. He noted that he neither votes nor makes recommendations to the board, in an effort to be as fair as possible.

“The meeting did get pretty contentious on both sides,” Cole said. And he noted that while no one opposed the restaurant at the meeting, he received e-mails and phone calls from people in the neighborhood who do oppose it. “There are some people who are concerned about the long-term impact of a restaurant of this size on the neighborhood,” Cole said. “But I would like to emphasize, if people want their voices to be heard, they need to show up at meetings,” when issues are being discussed.

Each side scored

One person who attended the meeting, and spoke on the condition that she not be identified, was impressed by the arguments on both side.

“A lot of times you go to these type of meetings and you have your crackpots on one side, and your people on the other side who are trying to be rational and reasonable,” she said. “At this meeting, I found myself nodding my head in agreement when one person spoke and then when someone took the other side, I could see it from their perspective, too. I thought it was interesting that both sides made a lot of sense.

Cole does thinks it it unfortunate that the city isn’t requiring parking under the C-MX-5 zoning.

“The one thing I will say is that I think it is a shame that the new zoning did not require any parking spaces,” Cole said. “It is a shame that it was left up to the neighborhood to have this as a concession.”

Cole said he believes the restaurant will have seating for around 380, which he believes will make it the largest restaurant so far in LoHi.

Cole said he will include a specific number of parking spaces needed within a reasonable walk of the restaurant.

Good neighbor requires more than parking

Other parts of the GNA will deal with hours when the patio can be open; what time exterior speakers need to be turned off so as not to disturb nearby residents; guarantees that the restaurant will clean up any cigarette butts, trash from patrons and graffiti; and restrictions on when they can dump beer bottles.

“I used to live in a loft next to Rock Island (a former downtown nightclub), and it was loud and obnoxious when they dumped beer bottles at 4 a.m.,” Cole said. “I could just imagine what it would be like if you had a baby, and you weren’t getting much sleep anyway.”

He said the GNA probably will prohibit bottles being dumped between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“Female-friendly” menu, view to die for

Dan Strammiello, a project manager for the restaurant, said it will have a total of 7,852 square feet, including the existing building and an addition.

He said it is going to be a “restaurant-bar,” as opposed to a “bar-restaurant.”

“It’s going to be 65 percent food, and 35 percent liquor,” Strammiello said. “They’re not going to brew beer there. It will not be modeled after the Breckenridge Brewery downtown or along Kalamath. It will be modeled after the Breckenridge Brewery in Grand Junction.”

He said the restaurant will feature a “very female-friendly menu. When you go to most brewpub-type places, the food is mostly burgers and brats. This restaurant will offer more salads and fish dishes. And if they are sitting on the patio, they can look at the downtown skyline.”

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Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com or 303-945-6865.