A Glass of Wine at The Garden Cafe….Is That So Wrong?

Garden Cafe Then….
Garden Cafe Now…

When Dale Wootton bought a run down strip center on Junius street in the early 1990’s it was easy for an outsider to say, “what is Dale doing?” But he had a vision created from a deep love for the neighborhood.  Since then he transformed an old eyesore for Junius Heights into one of the most popular and comfortable breakfast and lunch spots in Lakewood, Garden Cafe.  It is a cozy restaurant dedicated to using fresh produce from their garden in their southern, comfort food cuisine. He even put in a large, fenced in play area adjacent to the back garden so the kids could have their own place to play while their parents finished brunch on the outdoor, dog friendly patio.

Now, Wootton wants to expand his business by adding dinner service, just to 10pm, with a selection of wine and beer available.  He and his attorneys have done at least a year and a half of leg work on this, petitioning, rezoning, doing out-reach, asking the neighborhood for feedback, and constantly making concessions.

They have come up with a Special Use Permit proposal which add a wine and beer license, while addresses and concedes to most of the concerns that have been voiced from the neighborhood, including that the building will always only have 1 story, the back patio space will never be expanded beyond its current size, the Cafe will close at 10pm every night, the Cafe will never be a drive in or drive through, outdoor amplified sound is prohibited, the current occupancy levels for the restaurant and garden area is 115 total, no alcohol will be sold or consumed in the garden area adjacent to the outdoor patio.

At a recent meeting residents in the area expressed concern over the Garden Cafe becoming a “biker bar,” because that is obviously what happens when you introduce wine and beer to the beverage options in any restaurant; and that late night crowds and loud music until all hours of the night will ruin the neighborhood, because that is what happens with restaurants that close at 10pm; and selling alcohol across from a park, that 20 years ago was filled with gang violence before Wootton purchased the property, automatically means that this is a safety concern and neighborhood kids will be put in harms way.

With this, and another go round with the city, Wootton the additional concession that 50% of all sales in the Cafe will be food, keeping the goal for this to stay a neighborhood restaurant always.

If the Cafe kept the current zoning and in the future Wootton decided to sell, here are some things, according to attorney Roger Albright that could be built in this Junius Heights neighborhood legally and without restriction.

“IF the Garden Café was unable to obtain its proposed PD/sup and merely kept the existing zoning the site could be developed  by someone other than Dale as follows:

1.        Currently Contains 35,000 sf., 10,000 in current building 5000 in parking, 20,000 in garden—pave garden area, add 80 parking spaces.
2.       80 spaces would allow additional 4000 sf of restaurant and 8000 sf of retail.
3.       Build second story which is allowed in NS zoning and tract F of Junius Heights Historic District( up to 30’)
4.       Build roof deck on top of second story ( for that “downtown view”). Doesn’t count as square footage so long as it’s not fully covered.
5.       Open 24 hours a day /7 days a week
6.       Live and/or amplified music on the roof deck.

Again we have a PD/sup proposal that would block all this.”

I live two blocks from the Garden Cafe and would love nothing more than to walk to the Cafe and enjoy a good meal with a glass of wine over dinner on their patio, with my sweetheart and my dog. I understand there are many opinions on this.  It is the heated debate on neighborhood porches, as we gather to enjoy a glass of wine and the nice weather….just as we would do at Garden Cafe.

If you are in support of the proposal, the Garden Cafe is asking you to email or write your city council member or Mayor Rawlings in support of the rezoning request for Garden Cafe. The email doesn’t have to be long, just a note to say you are in support of the Garden Cafe’s request for a beer and wine license, as well as any additional comments.  And, they are asking to be included on copy. Garden Café’s email: [email protected]; Find your city council members here. Look up your district here.

The city council hearing is on September 14th so please act fast.  You do not have to live in the city of Dallas to express your support for the Garden Cafe.