The Bay View space that formerly housed Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar has sat vacant since the restaurant closed the location in 2016 and relocated downtown. When plans for a new restaurant at the 3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. space were proposed in November– the second proposal since June— residents of the surrounding neighborhood pushed back.
Charmice Dodson, 44, of Greenfield wants to open Belli’s Bistro & Spirits, a “comfortable upscale eatery and pub” that would operate daily for lunch and dinner, serving comfort food and a selection of cocktails, wine and beer. The first floor restaurant space would seat about 40 people.
Dodson originally planned to use the building’s second floor– with a capacity for 40 people– for small private events on occasion.
During a recent community meeting held at the space, Dodson presented her plans to the neighborhood and residents who attended presented their major concerns about the new restaurant: street parking availability, usage of the second floor and their desire for an earlier closing time.
The meeting was organized by 14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski who represents much of Bay View and also chairs the City of Milwaukee Licenses Committee. Zielinski recently announced his bid to run for Milwaukee mayor in 2020.
Belli’s would join three other establishments– Palm Tavern, Lee’s Luxury Lounge, and Blackbird Bar– that are all located within a block of each other on Kinnickinnic and Rusk Avenues. Due to an increase of bars, restaurants and shops opening in Bay View, available street parking is becoming scarce in residential areas throughout the neighborhood.
Due to the parking scarcity– which, for some residents, is the main reason they oppose the new restaurant– the neighborhood residents demanded that Belli’s would close nightly at 10 p.m. and that private events would not be held in the restaurant’s second floor space.
“I have heard the community’s concerns and I understand where they are coming from,” Dodson said in an email to BizTimes Milwaukee after the meeting. “I think Bay View is a wonderful neighborhood and it is absolutely my intention to work with the neighbors so that Belli’s does not become a source of frustration for anyone.”
Due to the neighborhood’s demands presented at the meeting, Dodson said she has revised the restaurant’s plans– eliminating both the usage of the second floor event space and the option to provide public entertainment such as live music. The restaurant’s hours will also be adjusted to close earlier on week nights, she said.
Dodson will present the revised plans on Jan. 23 to the City of Milwaukee Licenses Committee.
Zielinski said the residents’ demands have consistently stood as neighborhood ground rules for Pastiche and other establishments that have previously wanted to open at the location. He and other residents at the meeting praised Pastiche owner Mike Engel for operating a neighborhood-friendly business at the Bay View location for six years.
“Pastiche always closed at 10 p.m.,” Zielinski said. “Unless the neighborhood has changed their opinion now, they are looking for the same type of thing they had before: closing time at 10 p.m. and no use of a banquet hall upstairs because there isn’t sufficient parking in this area. Right now, these people can’t get to their homes.”
Even though Pastiche closed at 10 p.m., one neighboring resident said, the restaurant’s employees who parked their cars in front of nearby homes often stayed past operating hours to close the restaurant or visit nearby bars, creating noise or disturbances late at night.
Residents also voiced concerns about the restaurant’s liquor license and the alcohol it would avail to patrons. During the meeting, some residents repeatedly referred to Belli’s as a bar establishment, but Dodson clarified that the business would operate mainly as a restaurant, not a bar.
“I think the word ‘bar’ is being used loosely,” Dodson said. “We only have six seats that surround the bar so there’s not going to be a lot money that will be made from drinks or the bar. We intend to make money from our plates.”