If you've chatted with us at our Shelby Township store or driven past 29932 Woodward and seen our "coming soon" signs, you might be wondering what the deal is on our pending Royal Oak location.
Believe us, we're super excited and eager to get this location up and running. (We've been working on the licensing on this site for nearly a year, and those spiffy coming soon signs have been up since December!)
Here's an update on what's going on …
I don't want to read a big, long dissertation. Just give me the Cliff's Notes version.
OK, here it is: We already have approval from the state of Michigan, unanimous approval from the Royal Oak City Commission and unanimous approval from the Royal Oak Planning Commission.
There's one final hurdle we need to clear, and that's obtaining a parking variance from the Royal Oak Zoning Board of Appeals. If we do not receive this variance, we cannot open in this location.
If you're a Royal Oak resident in support of our plan, we humbly ask for your support at the Aug. 14 ZBA meeting, where the vote on the variance is scheduled to take place. (Scroll down for more details on the meeting.)
Wait, I thought you already went to the ZBA in July?
Yes, we did. Unfortunately, at that time, four members were absent and the action taken — 3-2 in our favor — was classified as a denial. Unbeknownst to us until after the vote occurred, such variances require a majority of total ZBA members, not a majority of present members (meaning we needed five votes for approval).
There was some confusion that occurred in the wake of this vote and after the meeting, and we were waiting on a ruling from the city attorney on what the outcome was.
We are deeply appreciative of the fact that the ZBA has agreed to look at this issue again at their Aug. 14 meeting.
Why is a parking variance needed for this location?
Because we are a wine tasting room and Royal Oak does not have a specific classification for an establishment with our format, the city has classified us as a bar (which we contend we're not).
Parking requirements for bars are calculated based on square footage, not the number of seats. Therefore, even though we're only asking for 37 seats, the city is calculating the parking needs based on the idea that we could fit 130+ people into the building.
We need the ZBA to essentially concur that we don't need as many parking spaces as the city ordinance states and waive that requirement.
We have no intention of handling crowds at such an astronomical capacity in this space. We set our seating at 37 for a reason. We want to maintain a sedate, quiet, comfortable atmosphere.
If we were classified as retail, we would actually need fewer spaces than the business that was there before us.
What's the parking like in that area?
We specifically chose this location because of the huge parking lot attached.
There are 55 spaces in the rear of the building that belong to the entire shopping center, Oak Tree Shops. (There also are many spots along Woodward and a handful along the west end of Webster that we are not allowed to count in our parking calculations.)
Our guests won't have to search for parking, pay for parking or park far away, and that was important to us.
We have the support of our neighboring businesses in Oak Tree, and they are primarily weekday, daytime businesses. If you have visited us in Shelby Township, you know that we are typically quieter during the day, with people just popping in and out to buy bottles, and busier in the evening, particularly 7-9 on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 7-10 on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you venture out to the Oak Tree shopping center to look at the lot, it is virtually deserted in the evenings, and we have a steadily growing file of photos from various days and times to demonstrate this.
The parking lot is well separated from the neighborhood to the east. There's a street (Hawkins), plus a stone wall with landscaping.
We are confident that our business will not cause any stress or inconvenience to our fellow businesses, nor to the residents living nearby. We certainly hope and anticipate that all of our neighbors in the Woodward and Webster area will find us to be an asset to their community.
At the June 10 Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Newman said: "I've visited this site to check out the parking deficit and … during the hours after 5 p.m., that lot is completely empty. There were maybe two or three cars when I went up there each time. So I don't think there will be a parking problem during those hours. I think it's a great idea for this location."
Commissioner Vaara, who said she's resided nearby for 17 years, concurred: "I think this is a great idea. I live in this neighborhood. There's plenty of parking."
(1) The first is on whether to rescind the action taken July 10, since the 3-2 vote technically constituted a denial.
(2) If that motion passes, there will be discussion on, and a separate new vote on, whether to grant the parking variance.
The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 14, in commission chambers on the third floor of City Hall, located at 211 S. Williams in Royal Oak. Public comment on all agenda items is permitted. Parking at the Farmers Market might be the best option.
If you are a Royal Oak resident and/or a fan of Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room, we would greatly appreciate your support at this meeting. If you're unable to attend but would like to write a letter of support, you are welcome to forward it to Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room, 45645 Hayes, Shelby Township, MI 48315, and we will include it in the packets we're preparing for ZBA members.
We kindly ask that anyone who speaks on our behalf be pleasant, professional and respectful. The ZBA members are citizens who have offered their time to make the decisions that are best for the city and surrounding area.
What's the bottom line?
We sincerely appreciate the ZBA giving us another opportunity to present our concept to them, and we are hopeful for a positive outcome.
We can't emphasize how excited we are to come to Royal Oak and help be part of the revitalization of this stretch of Woodward. According to our landlord, the space we plan to move into has been vacant for FIVE years.
As Commissioner Poulton said at the June 10 Planning Commission meeting: "This is going to add some life to (Woodward). Unless we look at some of these options, all we're going to have is all kinds of nail shops or wood shops, or we're going to continue to have those hotels existing along Woodward. We've got to look at new things such as this. … I think it's a good fit, and I fully support this."
Here are some of the other comments the commissioners made about our project:
City Manager Johnson (who visited our Shelby Township location "undercover"): "It's a lovely little store. Very nice, quiet. Very pleasant experience. Ms. Casey was an absolutely delightful host, even when she didn't know who I was and why I was there." (City Commission, 4/21/14)
Commissioner Douglas: "They have a very thoughtful approach to wine — a very educational approach. It's really all about promoting these Michigan wineries, and I love the fact that we're supporting Michigan businesses like this." (City Commission, 4/21/14)
Commissioner Poulton: "I think this is an excellent idea and will provide some life to the Woodward corridor. We're looking for new businesses and this is one I think would fit in nicely." (City Commission, 4/21/14)
Questions about our Royal Oak location and/or the Aug. 14 meeting?
Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're happy to provide more info!
Thank you in advance for your support!