What might soon become Birmingham's newest restaurant took a big step toward opening Monday night after the developers behind Crush received final approval from the Birmingham City Commission.
On Monday, commissioners approved by the final site plan and Special Land Use Permit for Crush, the seafood and wine-themed restaurant looking to move into the ground floor of the 555 building on South Old Woodward.
Crush also recieved an economic development license on Monday night — a less expensive Class C liquor license for restauranteurs looking to revive the Woodward Avenue corridor.
"We fit the master plan of this city in a unique way because we fit almost every single element," said Rick Rattner, the attorney representing Crush, Monday night.
Crush will be managed by the owners of the Sinbads Restaurant in Detroit, including owner Marc Blancke and executive chef John Fleming. With two stories, plans call for two large balconies perfect for outdoor dining — one overlooking Old Woodward, the other overlooking Woodward.
The cuisine will be a mix of seafood and other hearty dishes, from steak to chicken ciabatta sandwiches. Dozens of wines, served by the glass and the bottle, are also on the menu.
From the very beginning, city commissioners and planning board members were fans of Crush's location. Currently, the South Old Woodward dining scene is made up only of Phoenicia and a few casual dining spots, like Mountain King Chinese.
"I think you've got everything right with this," Commissioner Tom McDaniel said. "It puts people on the street in a kind of dead area of town."
Crush looks to invest nearly half a million dollars in the property
Before it could open, however, Crush needed a liquor license. At first, Crush was one of three applicants for a 2013 bistro license. However Rattner said they decided to abandon that request once the limitations of a bistro sunk in. As a bistro, Crush wouldn't be able to use its Woodward-facing balcony because of seat restrictions.
Two weeks ago, the Birmingham City Commission voted down Crush's request for a bistro license, knowing the developers were now looking for an economic development license.
With the same price tag as a bistro license — $20,000 — the economic development license was created to stimulate development along Woodward. To receive one, restaurants must either make a significant investment in or increase the value of a property along Woodward. The only other restaurant with such a license is Zazios.
Rattner admitted it's hard to determine the assessed value of a building that doesn't exist yet, but he expects Crush to increase the assessed value of the property by more than 500 percent.
Parking a concern for nearby businesses
The biggest, and only, issue Monday night was parking. Crush diners will be asked to park in the 555 building's parking garage, which has more than 390 available spots.
Still, the parking garage is more expensive than the city garages — none of which are nearby. During hearings at the Planning Board, nearby business owners complained that Crush patrons will likely try to park in their free lots rather than pay for on-street parking or the garage.
On Monday night, Susan Peabody, owner of Peabody's Restaurant, said they often have to "protect" the surface lot adjacent to their restaurant.
"People like to park in surface lots, not in a structure," she said. "It will be a concern for your neighbors."
While speaking to the commissioners, Peabody also wondered whether with the advent of the bistro license, there are too many restaurants but not enough diners in Birmingham.
"How many more seats are we gong to throw into this town?" she asked.
- Planning Board Says Yes to Crush's Request for Economic Development License
- 3 of 6 Birmingham Restaurants Move Ahead in Quest for Bistro Liquor License