**UPDATE 6/29/10 3:31 PM: Volunteer Park Cafe not going anywhere anytime soon**
The Volunteer Park Cafe has been churning out “always fresh goodness” in a former neighborhood grocery store at the corner of 17th and Galer for more than three years but its new effort to add a garden and patio dining has put the restaurant in hot water with the city. A complaint filed by a neighbor with a bone to pick has owners Ericka Burke and Heather Earnhardt scrambling not just to make sure they have the proper permits for their new garden and sidewalk seating plans but also filing paperwork for the restaurant as a whole.
According to an e-mail sent out by the cafe to customers and media, a neighbor who was not happy with VPC’s plans for increased outdoor dining discovered that the 1904 structure’s use is officially approved as a grocery store, not a restaurant. VPC says the neighbor turned them in. It’s a Department of Planning and Development technicality — and a violation of city law, the department’s inspector decided:
Below, you’ll find the note from the cafe e-mailed to the restaurant’s newsletter and media list asking for letters of community support to be sent to Burke at Ericka@alwaysfreshgoodness.com as the restaurant mounts a campaign to have a change of use approved by they city. “We need to present a supportive agreement as to why the city should grant us a change of use,” the e-mail states. “We just need to change our non-conforming use and with support from the community it will happen.” A message posted inside the cafe on Sunday afternoon notified customers that a video was being shot in another effort to illustrate support. Also posted was a fresh DPD permit application notice for sidewalk cafe seating dated June 21.
You might have noted that the original complaint was made to the city back in mid-May. In the e-mail, VPC’s owners say they tried to make a “win-win” situation but apparently time has run out. The DPD warning shown above requires compliance by July 1.
Burke and Earnhardt also say that the lease they signed lists the property as a cafe. Seattle Met reports that Burke told the magazine she may have to resort to a lawsuit but is considering buying the building in an effort to keep the matter with their landlady out of court.
There hasn’t been an honest to goodness grocery operating in the space since at least 2002. Before VPC, the building housed the infamously odd Cafe Europa. It apparently also was operating in violation of the city’s muni codes. Volunteer Park Cafe might also not be alone in the neighborhood distinction. Not far away near 19th Ave E and Aloha, the approved use of the building that is home to the usually-packed-with-families Vios Cafe is also listed in the DPD records as “grocery store.” In addition to housing the kid-friendly Greek restaurant, it’s also the location of a dentist’s office.