Blue Tractor Pulls Forward

Blue Tractor pulls down alley HVAC platform, receives liquor license
The Blue Tractor sign

The Blue Tractor's new sign hanging at 205-207 E. Washington St. Operating Partner Dan Glazer told The Chronicle that additional design work will be done on the sign to give it a more weathered look.

Stopped. Watched. correspondent Bill Merrill filed a report on Wednesday alerting readers that the Blue Tractor Brewery sign was about to be lifted into place by the Huron Sign Company. By the time The Chronicle arrived on the scene on Washington Street just east of Fourth Avenue, the sign had been affixed firmly to the front of the former home of Jewel Heart, just down from Cafe Habana. Blue Tractor partners Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell also partnered on Cafe Habana, which will be physically connected to the Blue Tractor’s dance area on the lower level.

The hanging of the sign, along with forging ahead with the process of hiring of 60 staff people, is partly a reflection of Carlson and Lobdell’s success at last Monday night’s council meeting in obtaining their liquor license. That application had originally been postponed from council’s Oct. 6 meeting to sometime in December in order for the liquor committee to exercise due diligence on the application. At last Monday’s meeting, councilmember Leigh Greden explained that in general, liquor license applications would simply take longer now than they used to.

The reason? The city had reconstituted its liquor committee and would be exercising greater scrutiny of every application. Councilmember Stephen Rapundalo added that one impetus behind the greater scrutiny was to afford greater uniformity in evaluation, especially in light of the new special redevelopment licenses that had been created by the state.

Dismantled platform-based HVAC unit in the rear of what will be the  Blue Tractor.

Mid-dismantling of the platform-based HVAC unit in the rear of what will be the Blue Tractor.

In addition to greater scrutiny, the Blue Tractor faced some opposition from neighbors across their rear alley. As The Chronicle previously reported in its summary of the pre-council caucus of Oct. 5, nearby residents had complained about the construction of a large platform for the Blue Tractor’s HVAC units, which put them in view of second story windows. The units posed both a visual and noise nuisance, said the neighbors.

But on Monday of this week, Rapundalo brought back for reconsideration the motion for postponement of the vote on the Blue Tractor’s license. Rapundalo’s council colleagues agreed to do so, to accommodate the Blue Tractor partners’ goal of opening for business in mid-November.

It will not have hurt their cause that they were able to report from the podium at council on Monday that the offending HVAC unit had been dismantled and would be installed on the roof instead, which they said represented a cost of $40-50,000 plus the sacrificed square footage inside for the ductwork.

They said they intended a full renovation of the building, and that it would be listed in the national register of historic places. Still, they recognized that some of the neighbors don’t like the change of use from Jewel Heart, a cultural organization rooted in Tibetan Buddhism. Among the concerns cited at caucus two weeks ago was the intended use of the lower level as a dance venue, which neighbors felt would exacerbate existing problems with intoxicated patrons leaving The Arena.

Carlson and Lobdell said that they had initiated conversations with The Arena, a bar next door on the end of the block, to make use of the easement that existed on The Arena’s alley so that two entry-exit points would be available for deliveries. They said they hoped that those conversations would be supported by residential neighbors, even though they themselves didn’t have a claim on the easement. So far, they said, no word from The Arena.

The Blue Tractor is slated to open Monday, Nov. 10.

HVAC unit on platform

HVAC unit on platform as originally constructed behind The Blue Tractor.

Section: Business, Govt.

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