City Council’s recent approval of zoning changes allowing an expansion of Finnegan’s Wake has greatly hampered the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association’s ability to negotiate with the owner for changes to the plan, NLNA President Matt Ruben told residents Thursday night.
Several attendees expressed anger at First District Councilman Mark Squilla for calling the two bills granting control of a portion of Bodine Street to Finnegan’s and allowing owner Mike Driscoll to add an outdoor dining area and multi-level balconies, which residents fear will lead to more noise and other problems. Driscoll has said the purpose of the balconies, the outdoor tables on Bodine, and a new entrance is to switch the focus of the business to the catering aspect and away from the bar. But there is nothing in the bill that limits balcony use to catering patrons.
Member Dan Novin said he asked Squilla at a public meeting if he would vote for the bills without the neighbors backing. “He said no,” Novin said.
Ira Upin, co-chair of the NLNA Zoning Committee, said he was also angered that the bill did not contain any clause reverting the zoning changes if Finnegan’s doesn’t meet its obligations.
Before the council vote, NLNA’s zoning committee and Finnegans were in negotiations, and getting closer to an agreement, Ruben said. Despite the vote, and the feeling that “our legs were cut out from under us,” NLNA is playing the cards it has left, Ruben said.
“Councilman Squilla assures us Finnegan’s has given him their word that they will not start construction of the balconies until we come to an agreement, and Finnegan’s has given us their word as well,” Ruben said. So far, more than 200 residents have sent emails to Squilla telling him they will hold him to his promise.
NLNA has told Finnegan’s Wake that “Until we see a plan or rendering or drawing that is substantially different, we have nothing to talk about,” Ruben said.
Under the new ordinances, Finnegan’s must construct and maintain a six-foot-wide public right-of-way on what is now Bodine Street. Ruben said NLNA is pushing for a wider pathway, so that it feels like a public path, and not part of the establishment.