Bob Schindler, the longtime owner of Pinehurst Wine Shoppe, has proposed a 1,400 square foot expansion of his building in North Baltimore to accommodate a new, family-style neighborhood restaurant. Initial concept and plans were introduced at a Bellona-Gittings community association meeting on October 29, where neighborhood reaction was “generally positive,” he says.
The popular wine shop, located at the corner of Gittings and Bellona avenues, is hoping to add a 75-seat restaurant and a small outdoor patio. “I want this to be the Petit Louis of Pinehurst,” said Schindler, “and I think the neighborhood is with me. I’m planning to make it great.”
The initial concept calls for a 21 X 42-foot restaurant addition with a two-level mezzanine, as well as a small rear addition next to the existing parking lot that would replace the existing shed and provide kitchen space, restrooms and circulation.
Both additions have been designed to complement the historic character of the existing building. The architect on the project is Vincent Greene, whose firm is known for high-end historic and waterfront residential projects throughout the country.
At a neighborhood board meeting Tuesday night, concerns were raised about opening hours, the presence of dumpsters and the possibility of attracting rats.
“That’s not going to happen,” says Schindler. “I’m going to be here. Gordie’s going to be here (Schindler’s business partner Gordon McNamara). We’ve never had rats in 30 years, and we’re not going to have them now. Look, we want what the neighborhood wants. If they don’t want a patio, OK, we don’t have to have a patio. If they want us to close at 10 p.m., that’s fine by me. Believe me, I don’t want to be here at 2 in the morning.”
The owners have proposed limiting the hours of the restaurant to lunch and dinner, closing by 10 p.m. on weekdays and possibly 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The idea for the restaurant was prompted by the new zoning code known as Transform Baltimore, which went into effect in June of this year. Pinehurst consultant Al Barry explained that prior to this, the commercial building, which houses both the Pinehurst Wine Shoppe and the Pinehurst Pharmacy, was in a residential zoned district and considered as “non-conforming,” a designation given to the use of a property that was established according to the zoning laws of the time, but does not meet current zoning regulations.
Under Transform Baltimore, the property has been reclassified as C-1, which would permit a restaurant use. The Pinehurst Pharmacy, which is contiguous to the wine shop, is separately owned and is not affected by the proposal.
Schindler imagines the new restaurant as a family-friendly place where you can get a real meal. “I want to have the kids. I don’t know who the chef will be yet, but it’s going to be seriously good food. We’re going to use all Roseda beef. The wine will be shelf prices with a small corking fee. What’s the downside? I don’t see it!”
Parking was raised as a concern by several board members, who pointed out overflow from the parking lot could increase pressure on an intersection that is already problematic. Residents closest to the proposed expansion were concerned about parking in front of their driveways or a potential drop in property values.
Barry pointed out that the trend in neighborhoods is to have more services and more activities within an easy walking distance. “If this is well-run, and I have every reason to believe it will be, it will make all the difference. This can be a local destination, and a real plus for the neighborhood.”
Schindler revealed that he has had lots of interest from his customers, and “lots of people who want to invest.” He stated that “money is not going to be an issue. I have backers, very experienced in the restaurant business, who believe wholeheartedly in this place. We are going to do it right.”
Approvals are still required from Baltimore City for a liquor license and possibly an interpretation from the zoning board about the patio setback. Schindler won’t apply for either until he has a formal agreement with the neighbors and the community association.
City guidelines recommend that owners enter into a binding and enforceable covenant agreement with the community association that would cover all operational and design aspects of the project.
On Monday, November 13 at 7 p.m., an open meeting of the Bellona-Gittings Community Association will be held at the Church of the Redeemer. Interested people are encouraged to attend. Schindler will present a proposal with architectural renderings for the expansion. The meeting will be open to questions, and a vote will be taken to gauge community interest.
“We need everybody who is with us, or even just open to the idea, to show up at the meeting,” said Schindler. “We are anxious to hear what the neighbors want. We are trying to be completely transparent here.”
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