Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Talks begin about future of old Pearl Street establishment

The first stirrings of a new restaurant on Old South Pearl Street rose from the ashes of BB’s nightclub Jan. 8 when the city of Denver granted an approval package loaded with safeguards for neighbors.

Building owners David and Wendy Phillips agreed to the city’s terms, which would modify their lease of 14 parking spaces on the northeast corner of Florida Avenue and South Pearl Street and commit them to a slew of restrictions.

As soon as the package gets a final nod from the Board of Adjustment, the Phillipses will be free to line up a new tenant for their 106-year-old building at 1475 S. Pearl St., which has been shuttered since BB’s abruptly left town last June.

“Whatever zoning wants us to do [is OK],” a pleased David Phillips said after the Jan. 8 hearing.

“We’re just happy to get back to work finding a new restaurant,” Wendy Phillips added.

“Overall, it’s a good outcome,” said Sharon Withers, president of the Platt Park People’s Association, which had requested some of the safeguards as a condition of its endorsement. “It was a rough road for us all.”

Especially for the Phillipses, who have failed to have a tenant in their building at 1475 S. Pearl St. for only three weeks in the last 27 years.

That string of peaceful transitions ended in an eruption of neighborhood anger last summer over behavior linked to BB’s. Neighbors complained of rude, aggressive valet parking attendants; loud, unruly, intoxicated nightclub patrons; fistfights; trash strewn through the alley; and rock music that ripped through the neighborhood at early hours.

Complaints about the business, which is just north of the Pearl Street Grill and across from Stella’s Coffee House, led to a request that the city revoke the parking variance it had issued previously. The city did so, leaving the Phillipses with a parking deficiency that kept them from using their 2,500-square-foot second floor, which BB’s had employed as a bar and bandstand.

The Phillipses met the deficiency by leasing 14 spaces from Mark Sindrich, a property owner on the east side of Pearl Street, and spent months mending fences.

The work paid off.

“We have a great relationship with the neighborhood now and we plan to maintain it,” said Wendy Phillips, who held community forums, spoke to neighborhood groups and lobbied residents door-to-door.

The Board of Adjustment approved a new parking variance, but with a long list of precautions tacked on. These are aimed on keeping the building from being anything other than an “eating place,” forbidding valet parking, requiring annual compliance reviews and ensuring that the city would be alerted in the event a variance condition ever changed.

The Phillipses agreed to each of the stipulations, adding their commitment to modest “conversational” live music and to a “neighborhood-oriented” restaurant that would offer “mid-priced, fresh” cuisine.

They also agreed to help spearhead development of a parking plan for the neighborhood, which had fallen by the wayside amid merchant-resident acrimony during the last two years.

“[Parking] is a long-term problem; it’s not going to go away,” said Wendy Phillips. “But people are starting to talk. We’re bringing people back to the table.”

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