- Live music at this outdoor beer garden in Westover has been shut down after noise complaints. (Photo: TBD Staff)
Westover Village being a relatively family-oriented area of Arlington, at the Westover Market beer garden, there weren’t the sort of heated debates over who owns the rights to a happy hour patio as there have been elsewhere.
Still, the kid-friendly beer garden on the side of the grocery store on Washington Boulevard has come under fire from some neighbors for its hard partying ways. (Evidence of such ways has not been witnessed by TBD, although we did notice a suspicious-looking kiddie pool at the garden on a recent visit. Other evidence includes references to live Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band covers being played at the garden.)
Now the owners are working with Arlington County to see how they can resolve the issues.
Westover Market opened its beer garden about a year ago, highlighting it as an area where patrons could bring dogs and children, and relax with one of the 850-plus varieties of beer the store sells. The beer garden started with live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and more recently added open mic nights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, according to the market’s manager, Devin Hicks.
The garden was even featured in the Washington Post as a kid-friendly happy hour with "nary an unfriendly look, even from the non-parents in the crowd."
But neighbors have complained about the live music at the beer garden in recent weeks, and police have had to respond to “keep the peace,” according to an Arlington County spokesperson. The first of such incidents occurred in mid-August. (Thanks to @MilesGrant for the original tip.)
Hicks says the music was always turned off on the weekend nights by 10 p.m., and on weeknights by 9 p.m. “There was nothing bad about this,” he says. “It’s not that loud.”
In addition, the beer garden is in violation of county laws, according to Zoning Administrator Melinda Artman.
Westover Market never applied for a live music permit -- a permission that must be granted by the County Board -- and also only has permission to seat nine people on the patio adjacent to the store.
Hicks met with county officials to discuss the issues this week, he says. He also applied for a permit to seat as many as 24 people on the patio on August 19, but that application was rejected, according to county records. According to the rejection, the market may be required to augment and reconfigure its bathrooms in order to come into compliance.
And so the music, although it filled the air all summer, is a no-go for now. Hicks has started a petition to rally support for the beer garden, however, in advance of submitting an application to the county for a live music permit. More than 200 people have already signed the petition, which is available at the store’s front registers.
“We set up the petition so the county can see the other side, that this is supported by a lot of people,” Hicks says.
The crackdown has left beer garden fans with a sour taste. On his blog, recent Arlington defector and beer garden patron Miles Grant noted that it makes it seem like Arlington is anti-fun. “At a time when the economy continues to struggle and Arlington's cultural identity seems increasingly dominated by generic places like Cheesecake Factory and Spider Kelly's (aka Adams Morgan West), these businesses are trying to breathe new life into places off the beaten path,” he writes.
Daniel Weir, another patron of the garden, wrote to us to say that the garden is part of the reason he’s considering settling down in Westover. “[The beer garden] is a piece of what makes Westover magic — the combination of a truly residential neighborhood that has a spice of urban vitality. Without it and the atmosphere that it helps create, Westover would be like a slightly older, less wealthy McLean,” he says.
As for future live music nights, all hope is not lost. Hicks says that he has another meeting scheduled with the county this week. From the county’s perspective, “our practice is to work toward resolving the violations in as amicable a fashion as practical,” Artman says. “The business owner has been working with us toward a positive outcome.”