Tonight, at 6 p.m., Fooducopia's Corner Store and Cafe, a charming market that sells a huge array of local products -- and serves many of those products in its adjoining little restaurant, will appear in front of a hearings officer at 6 p.m. in the Wellington Webb building to plead its case for a liquor license.
In the majority of cases, obtaining a liquor license goes relatively smoothly...unless you're a restaurant or bar in west Washington Park, in which case, there's bound to be opposition.
See also: - First look: Fooducopia's Corner Store and Cafe opens in the heart of Washington Park - Brown Dog Pizza loses its battle to get a liquor license on South Gaylord Street - Brown Dog Pizza applies for a liquor license
Remember the kerfuffle that surrounded Brown Dog Pizza, a small, family-owned, independent pizzeria that got its start in Telluride and wanted to open a second outpost on South Gaylord Street? That didn't go well at all for Brown Dog owners Jeff Smokevitch and Giles Flanigan, who were strongly opposed by a few vocal human pit bulls in the 'hood who reduced Brown Dog's bark to a whimper.
The owners never did get their liquor license, which would have allowed the duo to pour beer, wine and spirits. Instead, that space is now a chain: Il Vicino, another pizza joint that did get a liquor license, albeit just beer and wine -- and at least one of the neighbors who lives in very close proximity to Il Vicino is still bristling at the fact that there's a restaurant serving alcohol on a block that's been turning out food -- and pouring booze -- for decades. In fact, that neighbor was even issued a restraining order for her belligerence. Note to neighbor: MOVE! FAR AWAY!
And now Fooducopia will fight the good fight tonight, although owner Tim Lymberopoulos realizes he's up against some of the same opponents. "Since the beginning, Corner Store has focused on honesty, transparency and open dialog to portray our intentions. I'm saddened to hear from customers telling me that petitioners against our application are arriving at their door saying we will serve hard alcohol until 2 a.m. This is simply not true," he stresses.
In fact, the cafe part of Fooducopia would only be open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings (the cafe currently closes at 3 p.m.), so co-owner and chef Richard Glover would have the ability, says Lymberopoulos, to morph the space, which has a mere twenty seats, into a "a high end restaurant that serves scrumptious, elegant dinners -- just one turn, inside seating only, starting at 7 p.m. that requires a ticket rather than a reservation."
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Why on earth neighbors are getting their knickers in a twist because of a one-turn dinner, which, given the 7 p.m. slot, will easily finish by 10p.m., is beyond me -- and Lymberopoulos, too. "To reiterate, the Corner Store will remain a very convenient market with many staple grocery items, a cafe that serves delicious breakfast and lunch seven days a week, and an intimate restaurant serving formal dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings. I think something like this would be welcomed by the neighborhood, not rejected," he says.
The issue of parking, he adds, has been brought up at several neighborhood meetings, including one he held at his store. Parking is abundant, people, and as Lymberopoulos notes, the majority of people who flock to Fooducopia either walk or ride their bikes. "I need a bike rack long before a parking lot," he quips. Other complaints, he says, have more merit, including what would happen if Lymberopoulos ever sells the market or cafe. He's working with a mediator, he says, to ensure that if that ever happens, the liquor license would fail to carry over to the new tenant, in the event that it would remain a restaurant. "Look, I'm not doing this to add value to the property -- I'm doing it because according to the majority of our neighbors, there's a need for a quiet place to go and have an intimate dinner and a glass of wine." And he's absolutely right.
Fear is a very powerful motivator,"' admits Lymberopoulos. "But the other day," he adds, "I was at a baseball game, and the last words of the national anthem really caught my attention: "The land of the free, and the home of the brave." Let not fear reign, but freedom and bravery. I hope people will show their support by attending the hearing tonight at 6 p.m. at the Wellington Webb building. With the finish line in sight, there's no excuse to let up, but rather to finish strong."
If you live the 'hood, make it a point to attend the hearing tonight -- and be there by 5:45, otherwise you won't be able to voice your support. Those of us who live in the neighborhood -- me included -- shouldn't allow a few ignorant and cranky antagonists to take away from the real reasons why many of us live here to begin with: the amazing proximity to restaurants and bars that allows us to leave our cars at home and enjoy dinner out, at a good restaurant, with friends.