Evening Star Cafe Seeks Additional Outdoor Seating

If application is approved, Evening Star may install a retractable canopy or other shelter over 30-seat outdoor patio.

Evening Star Cafe on Mt. Vernon Avenue is seeking the addition of 30 new outdoor seats in the patio area next to Planet Wine.

The Alexandria Planning Commission will consider the restaurant’s application for the increased seating on Oct. 2.

Evening Star Cafe and Planet Wine, both under the Neighborhood Restaurant Group umbrella, may install a retractable canopy or other shelter over the proposed new outdoor patio. Evening Star currently has 20 outdoor seats on the south side of the building.

NRG purchased the patio and the two buildings next to Planet Wine in 2011.

The addition of 30 seats on the north side would increase the total number at the restaurant and attached lounges to 150. When Planet Wine hosts a special tasting or dinner, the total number of seats for the two establishments is to remain at 150. 

The application includes a requested parking reduction of 13 spaces.

City staff recommends approval of the permit with the reduction of required parking spaces.

Noting parking at the corner of E. Howell and Mt. Vernon avenues “can be tight at certain times, such as Saturdays,” the parking need at the location “is moderated by the fact that the majority of the parking reduction request is for outdoor seats that will be seasonal,” according to a report from Nathan Randall of the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

Randall also noted that like many restaurants in Del Ray, some customers will walk to the restaurant. The upcoming Del Ray/Arlandria Trolley could also help mitigate parking issues, Randall wrote.

karen September 25, 2012 at 01:22 PM
love the idea -- it adds to the atmosphere on the avenue. I hope they host outdoor wine tastings and other events!
vineeta anand September 25, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I like dining al fresco on the Avenue. But, parking is already very tight on the Avenue, especially in the blocks around the Evening Star Cafe, and I would like to see restaurants that want more outdoor seating to propose plans for parking for the additional customers. Adding more outdoor seating and taking away parking at the same time is a bad idea, and I oppose it.
Drew Hansen (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Just to be clear, Evening Star isn't requesting to take away any existing parking spaces. It is requesting a reduction in the number of required parking spaces for a 150-seat restaurant.
Sarah haut September 25, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I share both the enthusiasm for the outdoor seating area and the concerns about parking. I think the spot where Evening Star will add the outdoor seating will add to the charm of the Avenue. However I also share concerns abou the parking in that restaurant-dense area and the impact to the neighbors. The city had originally talked about a shared parking program for Del Ray, but it has never gotten off the ground. It would be nice if the city would more aggressively pursue the shared parking program if they are going to continue to allow restaurants to increase seating. Alternatively, how about restricting parking on side streets two blocks east and west of mt v ave to residents only? Most restaurant owners say that many of their patrons walk, so restricting the parking on the side streets shouldn't impact their patrons. I think parking and traffic will continue to be a growing concern as they develop potomac yard. Thank goodness the DRCA has a traffic and parking committee.
Julie L. September 25, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Sarah, are you the same Sarah who is on the DRCA Board? I respectfully disagree re the comments on parking. There is pretty ample parking on Mt. Vernon Avenue, and this end of the Ave is not as dense as down the street. I don't think anyone that is involved in planning or the like would ever refer to an area of two City blocks with three restaurants on it as "dense." (Thai Peppers, a tiny restaurant, Evening Star and La Strada/Osteria). Del Ray Cafe is on a side street with plenty of off street parking. The next restaurant is three blocks North (Windsor, Custis, and then Del Ray where the Pizzeria is). How is that dense? The recent parking study published by the City concluded there are no serious parking issues on the Ave. Outdoor dining is a fabulous addition to any street front that hopes to maintain the "Main Street" feel, and this change will help to bring that about. I say go for it.
Joseph M. September 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Drew, Evening Star is in a way "requesting to take away any existing parking spaces" From the City staff's report on the SUP request: "The applicant has requested in this application a reduction for the balance of its parking requirement (13 spaces), which combines the existing five-space parking deficit created by the loss of parking at the former ReMax site and the requirement for the new outdoor seats (eight spaces)." Under Evening Star's existing SUP, they are required to supplement their 'insufficient' on-site parking with off-site parking. In the past, they apparently contracted with ReMax to provide those. That contract expired and has not been replaced. Evening Star is thus petitioning to eliminate the requirement for those 5 off-site parking spaces. In addition, they are petitioning for a waiver to the 8-space parking requirement due to the 30 new outdoor seats. Link to the SUP report: http://alexandria.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1192755&GUID=6B11D599-1B4B-4E6D-93DA-80ACDF40B28A&Options=&Search=
Drew Hansen (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Thanks, Joseph. I couldn't find a way to link to the SUP report. I was only able to download it. In my comment above, I only wanted to clarify that "the reduction of spaces" does not mean eliminating existing spaces on the street or whatever. I oftentimes receive emails from readers asking if "a requested parking reduction" is the actual elimination of parking spaces on Mt. Vernon Avenue or a side street. People ask if they're turning the spots into a loading zone or putting the outdoor seating where those parking spaces were. I received a few emails asking similar questions about this story. I understand your point. I ultimately thought the best way to phrase it was to say the restaurant is requesting to operate with 150 seats with a reduction of 13 required spaces.
Joseph M. September 25, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Re: linking to the SUP report. The city could do a much job of making the Planning Commission documents easily accessible. They're a great resource if one can find them on the site. To add to your comment, something I didn't spell out is that Evening Star is not requesting to take away any 'existing' parking spaces. They are asking for the 'requirement' to provide 5 off-site parking spaces to be eliminated. But they are not currently meeting that requirement, so as of now the 5 off-site Evening Star spaces are not 'existing'. On a tangent, I don't get the loading zone in front of UPS and Pork Barrel BBQ. Seems like there are always cars parked in it, and I've seen the UPS truck consequently double-parked blocking the southbound travel lane.
Sarah haut September 25, 2012 at 08:46 PM
No, Julie L, I am not on the DRCA Board. No, no one in planning would consider that section of Del Ray restaurant-dense, but I do. There is limited off-street parking for Evening Star, La Strada, Osteria, and Artfully Chocolate. Patrons park on Mt. Vernon Ave and on the side streets. If I'm not mistaken the recent parking study did identify sections of Del Ray where parking demand was more intense and the section around Howell Avenue was one of them. If you look at the full area of the study which stretched as far south as GW Middle School and you average out the demand across the entire avenue, then yes, there were no serious parking issues. However, who is going to park down by the middle school and walk all the way up the avenue to go to a restaurant? If there are no serious parking issues on the avenue, then we can work to reserve parking on the side streets to residents and their guests.
Julie L. September 25, 2012 at 09:55 PM
But you are on one of the Committees, correct? I have no strong opinion on whether or not the side streets should be limited, with the exception of when I have guests over it seems like an inconvenience. Off of Commonwealth on Walnut & Maple they have that and I've heard my friends complain that it actually backfires as their friends are ticketed and they still have trouble parking.
Leslie Hagan September 25, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Julie, Plenty of parking on the side street by the Del Ray Cafe? I cannot begin to tell you how very mistaken you are. I have lived on East Howell for 36 years and I can assure you that there has never been "plenty of parking" there, even 36 years ago before a number of the lots on East Howell had been divided into mostly substandard lots and built upon. The street is one of the oldest and is all of 22 feet wide. There is parking only on one side and not all that much even there as there are so many driveways. People who have drive ways frequently find that "visitor" parking park their cars so close to the curb cuts that they some times cannot get their cars out. The rest of us have no off street parking so we rely on being able to park somewhere near our homes. Further, the current congestion on all four sides of the Mt. Vernon/Howell intersection is often so dense that getting on or off Mt. Vernon to the residential parts of Howell either to the east or west of Mt. Vernon make it often impossible. I teach twice a week at the Beatley library and when I have to travel up Howell to get to Russell, I often find my way blocked in the morning by delivery trucks carrying supplies to the Evening Star or the Del Ray Cafe. The same problem occurs at night when people who cannot find a parking place in a lot are wandering up and down the street looking for a place to park. The night before last, someone at the Del Ray Cafe just parked on the wrong side of the street.
Kim Moore September 25, 2012 at 11:34 PM
As I said in a post yesterday, it sounds like we need to press the Police Department and Parking Enforcement to exert as much enforcement in DelRay as they do in Old Town. I frequently have to call Parking Enforcement to report repeat offenders who know that they can park in from tof my house and and walk to Metro (I've seen them do it) without any risk of getting a ticket. I was advised by an enforcement officer to call at 11:30 in the morning so that the cars could be observed by two different shifts of enforcement officers. Nice try, but I am at work at that time of day. Arriving home with no place to park, as the commuters sit un-ticketed is frustrating.
Margaret Janowsky September 26, 2012 at 12:19 AM
We would like to know immediately if any of our delivery trucks are blocking Howell. If the truck is too large to deliver in our parking lot, they are required to park on the Avenue and wheel the delivery up the sidewalk. As for the customer who parked on the wrong side of the street, we are sorry and, if this happens again, would be more than happy to try to locate the offender in the cafe and ask them to move their vehicle. On the overall topic of parking, having dealt with this issue in Old Town for years for La Bergerie, the outside consultants rarely have a real grasp on demand and even consider Old Town to have sufficient parking!
Leslie Hagan September 26, 2012 at 12:23 AM
If Council, in it's wisdom, decides to forget about thé résidents and comes down once again on the side of a business, then Bellefonte, Howell, Windsor, and Custis at the very least should have residential parking status otherwise we will never have parking. No, I do not mean just thé two blocks on either side of Mt. Vernon but all the way from Rt 1 to Commonwealth.
Julie L. September 26, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Hi Leslie. I only meant that the cafe has off street parking for their patrons and, when I've gone there, there have been spaces available in their lot.
AHP September 26, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I live on East Howell on the same block as the Evening Star. We do not have an off street parking space, and so the parking habits of customers at the Evening Star and the Del Ray Cafe significantly affect us. I have a few observations: - On popular dining out evenings (latter half of the work week, weekend), I never get a parking spot for my compact car in front of our house, but that's OK. - Lately though, I've noticed that we often have to park further and further from our home. Not sure if this is because of Del Ray Cafe patrons or an increase in patronage at Evening Star or something else. - The people who tend to park on our block on Howell or Clyde seem more often than not to be headed to or from the Evening Star or the Evening Star bar/lounge - Plenty of times I've noticed space in the Evening Star parking lot, but patrons still parking on Howell. I don't know if this is because the patrons are not aware of the parking lot or they just prefer street parking because they fear being parked in the Evening Star lot - I would oppose permit parking on our street unless residents are also given an annual guest parking pass they can give to their own overnight visitors, but I doubt Alexandria would do this. - Evening Star's expansion raises other concerns about its impact on the East Howell: noise from patrons on their way back to their cars late at night; delivery trucks and patrons sideswiping resident's parked cars (just replaced our own driver's side mirror)
Leslie Hagan September 26, 2012 at 03:46 PM
AHP; I agree with you about a guest permit. Unlike Old Town, there are not many parking lots, etc. where a non-resident can park. On the other hand, if we don't have some form of residential parking soon, residents will have no parking at all. Also, remember that most residential parking areas have specific times on them which could be configured to allow for overnight guests. As for your rear view mirror, brace yourself. Between us my next door neighbor and I have lost a total of 13 and we live on the 400 block.
Germaine September 26, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I can sympathize with the residents on Howell–I live on Randolph Ave & have to deal with the clientele of Los Tios who park all around our house. We don’t have the luxury of a loading zone on our street, therefore at least twice a week there is a giant SYSCO truck unloading, or, the private trash company is picking up & blocking the road. So – I understand the frustration of not being able to get in & out of your street. I’ve taken to exiting the neighborhood via streets with stoplights as it’s just easier to wait for a light then it is to go around pedestrians & cars. That being said – I am a huge supporter of the businesses on our street. We try to only walk – even down to Mancini’s (just as far as walking from GW to the Star) &I think we as a community need to do what we can to make sure the businesses we have continue to be successful. If you’ve tried to eat out between 6:30-7:30 p.m. on a general week night you know there is definitely a need for more seating/tables as it is impossible to walk in or wait less than 15 minutes at any of the places on the avenue. I’m relatively “new” to the neighborhood having only been around since 1998 – but the changes on the Avenue over those 14 years have been amazing…I certainly don’t want to go back to what we had before. Maybe it is time for the city to install meters on Mt. Vernon, and timed parking on the side streets including perhaps a zone sticker as they have in Old Town.
McBrinn September 26, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Kim- get your neighbors together and draw a petition for making your street permit parking only. It's a simple process and the results are dramatic.
Joseph M. September 26, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Depending on where Kim Moore lives, it may take more than a petition. The City has several existing parking districts. If her block is within an existing parking district, then I believe if a certain % of the residents on the block sign the petition, then the City will put up the signs and enforce the parking district. In Del Ray, Parking District 6 is south of Monroe Avenue, but is only in force south of E Alexandria Ave (I don't think Nelson Ave has the signs but correct me if I'm wrong - in other words, the residents of Nelson have not petitioned the city to make the district in force). Parking District 11 is between Ashby St and E Raymond. http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/gis/info/ResParkingDistricts.pdf If her block is not within an existing parking district, then I believe the City would have to create a new parking district by amending the City code or something - which would be much more onerous. Also, if the City was just to extend Parking District 6 north into more of Del Ray, the parking is only restricted to 3 hours between 8am-5pm. So it would have no effect on evening or weekend restaurant parking. If a parking district was created or extended, Guest (24hr) passes are now pretty easy to obtain. The City literally has an App for that so it can be done online. Overview of Parking District Restrictions http://alexandriava.gov/index_quicklinks.aspx?id=56802
ChicagoBoyWonder September 26, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Neighborhood since '05. Any way to work with the large parking lots that border Del Ray -SunTrust and the Salvation Army after 5pm and not allow overnight?
Drew Hansen (Editor) September 26, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I believe La Strada has shared use of the Salvation Army lot.
ChicagoBoyWonder September 26, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Drew - I believe you are correct and I have seen a sign at Los Tios mentioning parking at SunTrust. Anyone know about the lot that sits empty each night behind the post office across from Evening Star?
McBrinn September 26, 2012 at 09:45 PM
AHP- you could- if your block choose the permit route- stock up or about $20 on 20 overnight guest parking passes. Most of my friends in Old Town have a couple dozen passes sitting in their junk drawers just for your situation. It really isn't an issue. An unexpected guest arrives? hand them the placard and they're good for 24 hours. Need another day? Bust out another placard, they're only a dollar.
Leslie Hagan September 27, 2012 at 12:17 AM
AHP - I meant sideview mirrors of course. 5 of my sideview mirrors are the ones that are electronically controlled from the inside and have cost $1000+ to repair. In addition, my husband's motorcyle has been run into and knocked down by people cutting the cornercat Howell and LaGrande once and the other time ramming into when parking. Neither of these accidents were caused by neighbors. Also, people going to or comibg from Rt 1 like to throw their trash out of their cars at our corner. Walking my dogs from Howell and LaGrande to Mt. Vernon, I am freqently stopping and having to remove food scraps out oc their mouths. Before the traffic reconfiguration this didn't happen.
Sarah haut September 27, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Leslie, I feel your pain on car damage. My house sits directly across the street from my nieghbor's driveway. It is the first driveway on the street that vehicles can use to turn around. They pull into the driveway, back out and back into my car, and then drive away. This happened to me 4 times in 14 years. I quit parking directly in front of my house. My neighbor's car has been hit parked in front of my house also. Fortunately the neighbor across the street saw it happen and took the person's license plate down. The police paid that person a visit later that day and got the insurance information that was needed to repair the car.
Leslie Hagan September 27, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Sarah, thank you for your sympathy. Sadly, it makes no difference if I park my car near the corner of Howell andLaGrand, further west on Howell, or on either side of LaGrande, the side ire mirrors are clipped off. Only one responsible party left a note and that was only because a neighbor whipped out his cell phone and took a picture of the car. I stress that ALL of these side view fatalities have occurred only since the rerouting of the Monroe Avenue traffic. In the 33+ years prior to that, I had never lost a single side view mirror. I think that is pretty telling.


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