‘Patio pub’ coming to downtown Newnan
by Sarah Fay Campbell
A variance for a new downtown restaurant was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Newnan Board of Zoning Appeals, but a special exception to allow vacant apartments on St. Clair Street to be remodeled was unanimously denied.
Joe Rizzo asked for a variance to allow more outdoor seating at his proposed restaurant, RPM Full Service, which will be located in the former Chevron service station on Jackson Street at Madison Street in downtown Newnan. The property was most recently the site of SMF Cycles.
Rizzo plans to have 1,836 square feet of outdoor seating at the restaurant, including a patio and a deck, and 1,146 square feet inside. The variance was needed because, under the city’s ordinances, outdoor seating areas can only be 25 percent as large as the indoor seating area.
Rizzo was on site Tuesday looking over the property with contractors. RPM Full Service will be a “patio pub.” It’s a concept seen in other areas around Atlanta, but is unique in Newnan, he said.
The restaurant will harken back to the 1960s and ‘70s in decor, and there will be some items for the car and motorcycle enthusiasts, according to Rizzo.
It won’t be a live music venue, per se, but there will be live music on occasion, he said.
He plans to serve both “American fare” including burgers and wings, as well as British pub food, such as fish and chips, as well as craft beer, wine, and cocktails. He also wants to “promote some local farm fresh items,” Rizzo said.
He’s also thinking about offering breakfast items.
Rizzo has been in the restaurant business for a long time, but this is his first time on his own as an owner/operator.
“This is a tough gig for a person starting out,” he said. But “it will be fun.”
— Among other issues before the zoning appeals board, William Keith Davidson and Lindfield Holdings had applied for a “special exception” for the property at 4 and 6 St. Clair Street.
The property contains two buildings, each with four apartments. They were built in 1987. In 2013, the property became vacant and condemnation proceedings were started by the city of Newnan. The property was foreclosed.
Apartments are no longer allowed in the city’s RU-I zoning district. Under the zoning ordinance, existing “non-conforming uses” can continue. Because it was vacant for more than six months, the St. Clair Street property lost its legal nonconforming use status, and the special exception is required for it to be used as multi-family housing.
Davidson said his company plans to extensively renovate and improve the property.
“We want to update it to the level that we can bring in young professionals,” he said. “We want to upgrade it on the outside greatly, so it is very attractive and desirable.” There will also be extensive work inside. Davidson said the budget is around $100,000 for the eight units.
“We’re going to try to make it an inviting property,” he said.
Davidson said that there were some people living in the apartments in the past year, and denied that the property had been vacant for six months. He did not present any evidence to support that assertion. He also told the board he felt that not allowing the project to go forward would be an unconstitutional taking of his property.
The Newnan City Council had previously issued a resolution to have the property repaired or demolished. In July, the council instructed city staff to demolish the buildings. A stay on the demolition was granted until the special exception was decided.
Some neighbors spoke against the request, asking that the area remain single family.
Roger Brewbaker said he started a petition against the request and got more than 105 signatures. He read some of the comments, from neighbors saying the apartments are an eyesore and need to come down.
“We’ve seen St. Clair clean up quite a bit in the past few months,” said John Anderson. “To get rid of these apartments would continue that.” Allowing them to be apartments again would be a detriment to the area.
Davidson said after the meeting he will be going to court to appeal the decision.
If he loses in court, the future use of the property is “not going to make these people happy,” he said.