Dispute Over Parking Variance Delays Restaurant Opening

Two prospective restaurateurs have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start with a dispute over parking with one of their would-be neighbors in the Riverdale area of Little Rock.
Bart Barlogie Jr. and Wilson Brandt plan to open B&B Taco Garage at the corner of Mart Drive and Old Cantrell Road, in a former filling station for Alltel's fleet.
But Mark Abernathy, owner of Loca Luna and Red Door, located on the same block, has filed a suit to prevent the new restaurant from opening under the variance it was granted in November by the Little Rock Board of Adjustment.
The city requires one parking space for every 100 SF of gross floor area, including any patio or outdoor seating space. The proposed restaurant would be about 2,252 SF, so it would need to have 22 parking spaces.
The design calls for 12 spaces on site, and Barlogie and Brandt have signed a lease with a property owner across Cantrell for an additional 13 to 25 spaces. That same lot also provides parking spaces for Union, a bar and restaurant adjacent to the B&B site.
These types of parking variances are common for restaurants in older parts of town, said Dana Carney, Zoning & Subdivisions manager with the city.
Abernathy opposed the variance at the November meeting, and in December, he filed suit against the Board of Adjustment.
Barlogie told Whispers that Abernathy's actions have pushed back the opening of his restaurant by nearly a year, and seem to be motivated by more than just concerns over parking.
"I'm not sure if it's really just parking or if it's a competition thing," Barlogie said.
Abernathy said allowing B&B to open with the variance it got "will cause irreparable harm to all the businesses around here, if they don't come in with some parking of their own."
Regarding B&B's lease with the lot owner across the street, "they have a month-to-month lease; that's not guaranteed parking," Abernathy said. "What happens if they lose their lease?"
The variance says the lease "must be maintained as long as the restaurant use exists on the site. If the lease is ever broken, the parking variance issue must be brought back to the Board of Adjustment for review."
Scott Marks, who owns Union, said he doesn't think another restaurant would be detrimental to his business.
"We welcome it," he said.
The case is scheduled for a June 16 before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.