With all but the nearest neighbor giving it a thumb’s up, a proposed taphouse and restaurant on the site of Missoula’s iconic Hoagieville drive-in gained unanimous City Council approval Monday night.
Along the way, neighbors and council members alike waxed nostalgic about their favorite Hoagieville orders – cheese fries, hoagies, double bacon cheeseburgers – and even some supporters lamented the planned razing of the 1950s-style drive-in on South Higgins Avenue.
But Lewis and Clark neighborhood residents also said they welcome a place within walking or biking distance where they can bring the family for a meal, with the option for an accompanying glass of wine or beer.
Jon Wilkins, a former City Council member and longtime Fairview Avenue resident, said he initially opposed the notion, thinking “I don’t want a bar down there.”
“I’m a guy who doesn’t like change,” Wilkins said.
Then he talked with owner Chris Goble, who explained that the new business will be a taproom and restaurant, serving food (including breakfast), with a beer and wine license.
Now Wilkins is an advocate for the restaurant, which the City Council restricted to serve its last food and drink at 11 p.m., in deference to its proximity to homes. (The nearest is 7 feet away.)
Wilkins and others also said the business will be “good for that corner” – near the intersection of South and Higgins avenues. “They’ve had some drug problems, and some crime problems, over there,” Wilkins said.
John Newman, who lives two blocks away from the business, said he has never seen so much support for a project in a Missoula neighborhood.
Pattee Canyon Drive resident Dan Brasington was even more enthused: “This is such a beneficial thing for the neighborhood,” he told council members. “We are really excited to have a place where we can walk or ride bikes, where we don’t have to drive to meet as a community.”
The only debate of the night came over the one condition attached to the “tavern” zoning request, limiting the hours of operation. Some council members and the public favored the limit in deference to the neighborhood and others opposed it in support of the property owner.
Voting against a limit on the taphouse hours were council members Bryan Von Lossberg, Michelle Cares, Jesse Ramos and Jordan Hess. With six “yes” votes, the 11 p.m. stop to food/beverage service was attached to the zoning.
Goble, however, said he has no problem with limiting the hours of operation. In fact, he emphasized that while the conditional use permit calls the business a “tavern,” his plan for a restaurant that serves beer and wine, not a bar.
Most interested in the limit was the nearest homeowner, Helen Petroff, who lives alongside the restaurant on Livingston Avenue, where she’s lived since 1956.
Her concerns were largely met by Monday night’s action: that the hours of operation be limited, that the view of her front yard from the planned second-story, south-facing deck be obscured, and that the narrow alley that runs between her home and the business remain closed.
Goble has not yet applied for a building permit, so the timeline for razing Hoagieville and starting construction of the new taphouse has not be set.