Popular but chronically embattled Preservation Pub opened its long-awaited rooftop beer garden a few weeks ago, winning over even some folks who were skeptical of the idea. (Over the weekend, we walked into a restaurant near West Town and found the young wait staff abuzz about the wonderfulness of downtown's newest amenity.) But last Friday, proprietor Bernadette West received a citation from the city demanding that they remove their flowers and potted plants from the roof within a week or face fines of $100 per day.
"I'm completely flabbergasted," says West; teaching art classes at Arrowmont this week, she's been unable to get to the bottom of the issue. "We got a note from the Historic Zoning Commission that said that they didn't want to be able to see any plants or flowers from the Square.
"So many people like the flowers," she adds, noting that several other buildings on the Square sport window boxes with flowers. "I'm at a loss as to why flowers on the roof are a bad thing."
The HZC's Certificate of Appropriateness allowing the rooftop development—finally approved after some debate about the historical appropriateness of the project—does include words barring visible umbrellas, awnings, and "planters," if not plants. In describing the project with the press for the last 10 months, the Wests have always talked about gardens being a feature of the rooftop project.
The city Plans Reviews and Inspections official who delivered the citation did not return calls for comment. Finbarr Saunders, current candidate for City Council, is chairman of the commission, says the pub was one of three projects, including the Oliver Hotel and Regions Bank's new Miller's Building development, that concerned the HZC because they didn't follow the letter of what the commission called for in approving them.
"We said ‘Fine, you can do X,' and they did Y. Where does that leave us? We're supposed to enforce the rules." However, Saunders was startled at the amount of the city's threatened fine of Pres Pub, which he says was not suggested by the HZC.
He implies the HZC's anti-plant position is not necessarily dug in. "The current guidelines are a moving target. Market Square is such an evolutionary situation, and always will be."