7 Brew Coffee isn’t quite ready to open a local location, the Columbia Board of Adjustment decided on Tuesday.
The drive-thru cafe chain wanted a 510-square-foot prefab store positioned immediately south of Raising Cane’s on Providence Road, within walking distance of the EatWell grocery store. That goal seems further away now, after the council denied several requests from 7 Brew to move away from downtown zoning requirements.
The requests were brought before the council after city staff denied a planning permit application by 7 Brew in November.
Construction at the proposed Columbia site is subject to the city’s Urban General West downtown zoning rules. While these rules are more flexible than those in the city centre, staff said they still aim to promote a vibrant, multi-use neighborhood that prioritizes pedestrians.
That’s where the city staff encountered problems with the drive-thru operation. The council voted on seven variances of the mixed-use center and two standard variances. With variance split across three different motions, 7 Brew was denied seven requests by 10 different votes.
Joe Rafferty, of 7 Brew, and Ashley Feliu Rivera, of Kinetic Design and Development, declined to comment as they walked out of the meeting, disappointed with the board’s decision.
“In the form in which they have presented it, the project will not go forward,” said Clint Smith, a senior city planner, after the meeting.
Patrick Zenner, development services manager for the Columbia Community Development Department, said prototype projects sometimes have to become custom projects to work within Columbia.
“This may be necessary to enable us to welcome the company into the community more quickly,” said Zenner.
The council denied permission to raise the store above the sidewalk beyond the maximum allowable 18 inches. 7 Brew argued that the slope of the site made it impossible to satisfy that requirement. It also asked the city to waive requirements for a sidewalk wall shielding its off-street parking lot and for doors facing the street, since 7 Brew has no plans to include interior space for customers and its plans included a shield wall in a different place. The council denied these requests.
The chain also wanted the city to waive the requirement that 35% of the building be on the line from the sidewalk. A significant setback would be required for the building because the location is on a slope and has a 28-foot easement that runs parallel to Providence Road.
But 7 Brew also wanted another 15 feet between the building and a 25-foot-wide driveway that wrapped around the street-side drive-thru. The result would be a café nearly 20 meters from the sidewalk, a far cry from the district’s desire for buildings close to street space.
“Our findings are that there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason why they need to go back 70 feet, other than they’re building a very vehicle-oriented business,” Smith said. “Drive-thru use isn’t what we necessarily consider a pedestrian-type activity.”
The café applied for eight parking spaces in a zoning district that allows a maximum of six, but was denied. While it wouldn’t include interior space for customers, 7 Brew said it needs the parking spaces to accommodate its staff during the store’s busiest hours. Rafferty said during the meeting that the location will also include outdoor seating for customers to use during warmer weather.
Staff parking is also available east of Providence Road and found no justification for the extra spaces, although it acknowledged that 7 Brew had moved closer to compliance on this issue.
The board approved requests for 7 Brew to place trees and lights in a location other than where required by the district, in accordance with separate requirements from the Missouri Department of Transportation. He also approved the cafe chain’s request for a 9.5-foot-wide sidewalk instead of 10 feet.
But those approvals weren’t enough for 7 Brew to apply for a conditional use permit that, if approved by the City Council, would have made way for construction.
Zenner said Columbia isn’t against the franchises, but wants them to cooperate.
“If you drive to Denver or go to Overland Park, Kansas, and go to see a Walmart, you have to ask yourself the question: Does that Walmart look like a Walmart in Columbia, Missouri?” Zenner said. “No. There are community standards that are expected and should be met.”
The Arkansas-based coffee chain has been aggressively expanding. It has 57 locations nationwide, including nine in Missouri. He is opening another store in Jefferson City soon and has plans to open stores in several more states.