By Colleen King
Yesterday, the Grace Baptist Church on Richland hosted a public forum about the newest proposed business on the corner of Government and Steele Streets: a beer garden.
Present at the meeting were Brian Baiamonte and Dave Remmetter (would-be owners of the establishment and co-owners of Radiobar in Odgen Park), Tyler Hicks (president of the Capital Heights Neighborhood Association), Councilwoman Denise Marcelle, Lance Medley (architect of the project), and Ryan Holcomb (with the City Planning Commission) as well as many interested local residents. The Facebook invitation to the event listed 200 people as ‘going’, and most of that number crowded into the church that evening. The purpose of the forum was to publicly clarify what this business’s impact might be in Mid-City before the City’s re-zoning process begins. The lot on which the beer garden would be built is currently zoned for a restaurant, but not for a business like the community space envisioned by Remmetter and Baiamonte.
After Baton Rouge Business Report broke the news on Baiamonte and Remmetter’s re-zoning application, opponents and proponents began asking questions about noise pollution, security, and traffic in the surrounding neighborhood. Dave Remetter opened the town hall discussion by stating, “We want neighborhood support” and noted that he wanted to make a “great part of town” even better. Remmetter and Baiamonte have reached out their potential neighbors to see what kind of business would best represent Mid-City. They said they recently canvassed door-to-door and found that most people were in support of their business proposal. In an interview with DIG, Baimonte emphasized the fact that the location would not be a “bar”, but something closer to a pedestrian and bike friendly community hangout, a place to watch sports with friends and have an awesome conversation. The bike-and-walk friendliness is super friendly/casual/cool and most of all- fitting for this community. At the town hall, Baiamonte asked the room who had biked or walked to the forum and about 70 percent of the huge crowd raised their hands.
He and Remmetter do their research to create venues that reflect the “vibes” of their surroundings. Radiobar is one such example of how this pair listens to and collaborates with surrounding businesses and residents. Ogden Park resident Barrington Neil lives one house down from Radiobar and says that the bar has only improved the neighborhood he lives in. Neil spoke to the community and assured all in attendance that a beer garden run by locals who want to add to the value and safety of the area is a best-case scenario. Neil also mentioned that Baiamonte and Remmetter kept good on their promise that there would be no noise pollution from Radiobar. The Magnolia Audiovisual sound design team for the proposed business was also present to assure everyone that the speakers they use will only create sound inside the perimeters of the beer garden. Architect Lance Medley reinforced that the build will incorporate extra insurance against noise pollution through the use of: a 12’ masonry wall 8” thick, attenuation panels, a wooden fence, and nature’s favorite- trees (newly-planted and preexisting). Medley also confirmed that the entrance would be on Steele with the exit on Government, meaning traffic will flow as normal. City Councilwoman Denise Marcelle said that Remmetter and Baiamonte have gone “far beyond what is necessary” to prove their compatibility with Mid-City residents.
And as far as security questions go, since the beer garden will have an employee at the door (a.k.a. watching the street all night), their presence will mean more security for the neighborhood. But security isn’t the only concern. The Mid-City vibe is all about curating that grassroots-local feeling that makes Baton Rouge feel like an exciting place to live. Brandon is a resident on Steele (that’s the street where the proposed beer garden will be located) and actually got the City to demolish a blighted building that used to be on the lot in question. He voiced his concern that if the citizens manage to block the re-zoning, a different business with less considerate owners will take its place.
“I was in fear that someone was going to build a McDonald’s there and this (the beer garden) is so much more positive for that piece of property.”
Tyler Hicks of the Capital Heights Neighborhood Association agreed that the beer garden would be a good addition to the area.
“At this point we have taken a lot of input from our neighbors and as of now it’s been overwhelmingly positive. We do understand some of the homeowners concerns, but the information presented tonight should put those concerns to rest… Something’s going on that property, and I’d rather it be from two people who really care about the neighborhood and really care about our concerns. I personally am for it, and I think the neighborhood should be for it as well.”
If Mid-City ever wanted to have a beer garden, it seems like now is the time and these are the guys to build it. The Planning Commission meets for the first time on the 21st of September to determine whether or not this business can get the zoning it needs. If all goes according to plan, the beer garden could break ground as early as January 2016. Until then, who’s to say what’s in store for the future of Government Street. It’s decisions like these that have the potential to make Baton Rouge the City we want it to be… but the question remains: what do we want it to be?
To voice your support or opposition to the proposed re-zoning,
email Ryan Holcomb: firstname.lastname@example.org.