By John Schaffner

An application for a special exception to parking requirements for a proposed restaurant/lounge named Altitude, at 3184 Roswell Road, led the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit B to question if bars in the Irby Street area of Buckhead are just playing a shell game with the same parking spaces.

When M. Hakim Hillard brought his request before the NPU-B Zoning Committee in September, for the parking exception related to the conversion of the former Tabu Boutique into a bar, the committee asked him to provide a letter showing he had secured 32 parking spaces for the bar’s exclusive use.

The committee also asked that he get the application changed from “restaurant/lounge” to a “bar” designation and to get approval for offsite parking, which the applicant agreed to seek from the city’s Planning Department and Bureau of Buildings.

Even then the committee vote was not unanimous for approval so the issue was fully discussed again at the NPU board meeting Oct. 6.

The applicant showed the board five letters guaranteeing 32 specifically designated parking spaces to be reserved for Altitude during its hours of operation, including a map of the location of the spaces. He explained that after spending two hours talking with the Planning Department and the Bureau of Buildings, the Bureau of Buildings rejected the offsite parking, even though it passed muster with the Planning Department.

The attorney for the applicant said they had applied for the most stringent parking conditions and his client had done everything required by code. But they were unable to get the approval of the Bureau of Buildings.

He explained that these were 32 specifically assigned spaces for Altitude, as opposed to just 32 spaces out of a massive shared block of spaces.

That caused Sally Silver, chair of the Transportation & Development Committee, to suggest that the NPU needs the city to take a close look at the entire Irby Street /Roswell Road area of the West Village to see if there are enough parking spaces to cover the various licenses that have been granted for bars/lounges/restaurants in that area or if they several of them are all claiming the same spaces as exclusive.

Altitude, which was described as a high-energy sports bar with dancing in a brochure shown to NPU board members, will be in a small space on Roswell Road between Irby and Andrews.

Executive Parking Systems would handle its valet parking as it does for several other establishments in that area.

In the end, the NPU-B board voted to approve the zoning parking exception by a vote of 17-3-0. The applicant will no doubt be back soon before the Safety Committee and full board regarding its liquor license.