MacDowell Brew Kitchen’s Beach is Saved With a 5 to 1 Council Member Vote

Posted by / Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

A patron speaking on behalf of the MacDowell Brew Kitchen/Rachel Saenz

Patron speaking on behalf of MacDowell Brew Kitchen/Photo by Rachel Saenz

By: Rachel Saenz

Leesburg Town Hall was swarming last night. A mix of people wearing suits, flips flops, gym clothes, Hawaiian dress—including a floral bathing suit—and “Save Our Beach” t-shirts attended the meeting to support MacDowell Brew Kitchen‘s co-owners, Gordon MacDowell and Nils Schnibbe in saving the restaurant’s beach bar. About six feet (or roughly one-third) of the beach is set on town property, which is a problem when the brewery was serving alcohol on its land.

MacDowell and Schnibbe were first notified about their zoning violation about two weeks ago and were told that they’d have to rope off a section of the sand until a hearing was held—as the sale of alcohol on town land is prohibited.

About 12 patrons of the restaurant and bar (including MacDowell’s mom) spoke on behalf of their love of the “beach” to the council and they did not hold back. Melissa Barnes, of Leesburg explained that the business had become an everyday oasis to her family. “It’s not just a restaurant. My son plays in the sand for hours and it’s a business that my family feels comfortable being at. A very family friendly place.”

One speaker even challenged the board for not notifying the owners sooner. “Look, sometimes the sand gets pushed a little too far. [The restaurant] has been there for 18 months and I blame zoning just as much as them. In all fairness, we all want to maintain small town businesses. Just let me go sit on my beach and drink my beer.”

Patron testimonials lasted about an hour until the council was ready to discuss their decision. Most members were on board with the exception of the hesitation provided by both Vice Mayor David Butler and Council Member Kevin Wright. As Butler put it, “[The MacDowell Brew Kitchen] broke the law in several ways. We can’t make exceptions just because a business is popular.” Though Council Member Kelly Burk was quick to point out that they’ve made exceptions before for another Leesburg restaurant, La Lou Bistro.

With a final vote of five to one, Mayor Kristen Umstattd declared that the restaurant “passed their ordinance” giving MacDowell and Schnibbe time to rezone and acquire the land themselves. When the verdict was announced, claps, cheers and handshakes were given all around and most of the audience stayed to congratulate the owners.

The restaurant posted on Facebook this morning explaining that the red tape will remain until the proper paperwork is filled out and then “everything will be back to normal.” It looks like the self-proclaimed, “Beermuda Triangle”, formed between Tuscarora Mill and Fireworks, has its beach back.

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