Proposed beer garden on West Side prompts noise, traffic concerns from neighbors

Posted at 10:26 PM, May 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-28 22:26:32-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Plans for a new bar and outdoor beer garden in the city's West Side neighborhood will have to wait, after neighbors expressed concerns during Thursday's city planning commission meeting.

The Sovengard is a proposed 250-seat indoor bar and outdoor beer garden that would sit across the street from the future site of New Holland Brewery at Bridge Street and Broadway Avenue.  The bar would occupy the basement of an existing building while the beer garden would transform a now empty lot.

The bar will apply "sustainable building methods, while creating a progressive company culture, and working with farms and producers that are taking care of the land," according to the company's website.

Chris Huntoon has lived in his Broadway Street home on Grand Rapids' West Side for more than 20 years. He is just a few houses down from the proposed beer garden site and is concerned about the noise from outdoor live music performances.

Huntoon spoke during the public hearing at Thursday's planning commission meeting, where he expressed concern over the number of bars within a small radius. He referred to the neighborhood  as the "Bar-muda Triangle."

“It’s just more people, more trouble, more goofy stuff that goes with bars and alcohol," he told FOX 17. “(The commission's) first responsibility is to the citizens who are already there.”

Concerns over lack of parking  were also expressed by several people who spoke Thursday.

The planning commission ultimately voted to table the issue and put off any decision on approving permits for the bar until the end of June.

“It’s kind of an old and new quandary about preserving quality of life for the residents that have been there for a long time and also recognizing that times are changing and we’re seeing new development in the area," said Suzanna Schulz, city planning director. “We don’t want to stymie development, but also -- when we’re talking about mixed-use neighborhoods where you have restaurants and retail next to residential or even residential above those storefronts -- how do you do that in a sensitive way?"

City Commissioner Walt Gutowski, who owns several of the properties in the West Side neighborhood, including the lot proposed for the beer garden, said he's willing to work to address the concerns before moving forward.

“Everything we do, we want to do it for the betterment of the neighborhood," Gutkowski said.

“It’s got to be done right, and I think everything we’ve been associated with has been done right.”

The planning commission will hear the revised proposal on June 25.