Vienna Planning Commission members on Aug. 14 unanimously recommended that the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) approve a conditional-use permit for live music at Blend 111 Food & Wine Bar.
Owner Michael Biddick and co-partner Hugo Vasquez are asking the town to allow one or two musicians to play acoustical music in the 800-square-foot lounge area of the restaurant, located at 111 Church Street, N.W.
“Our focus would be on vocalists and string instruments,” they wrote in a July 24 letter to town officials. “While much of this would be acoustic, some artists may require an amplifier so that the sound on instruments like a quatro would carry to the rear of the restaurant. No amplification would be used on any percussion instruments.”
The musicians would play and sing only indoors. The restaurant has no exterior space, its windows do not open and its door remains closed when not in use, they said.
“We’re not a lounge, we’re not a bar, we’re not a disco,” said Biddick, who also is the bistro’s sommelier, at the Planning Commission meeting. The applicants just are trying to enhance patrons’ dining experience, he said.
The permit would be valid throughout the restaurant’s operating hours from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Musicians would not be performing all the time, but likely during brunch and the evening hours, the applicants said.
The restaurant is located in the C-1B commercial zone on Church Street, created by the town in the late 1990s to spur redevelopment along the historic street, which parallels much-busier Maple Avenue.
The two-story, 15,313-square-foot building that the restaurant occupies was built in 2006 and has three ground-floor suites and four second-floor suites. Blend 111 occupies a 2,300-square-foot suite on the first floor and offers cuisine and wine from Spain, France and Venezuela.
The structure also is occupied by Bazin’s on Church and Bazin’s Next Door restaurants on the first floor and Anytime Fitness, Phoenix Rehabilitation and Health Services, Green Spa and Tiber Creek Partners LLC on the second floor.
Residences at a higher elevation abut the site to the rear. Town officials sent 72 letters to surrounding home and business owners in advance of the Planning Commission hearing, but town officials received no comments from them and no one except applicant Biddick testified.
The BZA will next meet on Sept. 18 and must act on the application by Oct. 23, town officials said. The BZA will consider if the application accords with the town’s master plan and whether the proposed use might adversely affect the public welfare, neighborhood property or the health or safety of people living or working in the vicinity.
The BZA will have the option of imposing a time limit on the conditional-use permit. Planning Commission members debated whether to recommend a sunset period for the permit.
“When I first saw this, my alarm bells went off,” said Commission Vice Chairman Stephen Kenney, recalling the lengthy history of noise violations at Bey Lounge on Mill Street, N.E. Kenney suggested a one-year time limit for Blend 111’s permit would let town officials re-evaluate how the restaurant’s live-music situation was working out.
But the Planning Commission eventually decided against recommending a time limit for the permit, saying the $1,500 fee would prove burdensome to the applicants if they had to reapply a year or two later.
“It’s fairly significant,” Chairman Michael Gelb said of the expense.