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B Entertainment adjusts downtown Gainesville venue plans; Arts Council says not enough
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Bourbon Brothers sign for planned restaurant and entertainment venue downtown.

After substantial changes to the proposed entertainment venue and restaurant from B Entertainment, the Gainesville City Council unanimously approved the rezoning application Tuesday Aug. 3 with some new conditions, including adjustments to address Arts Council concerns.

The 1.7-acre property, which currently holds Engine 209 Park and a parking lot, is off Jesse Jewell Parkway, West Academy Street, Broad Street and Maple Street and was rezoned from general business to central business with a special use for an event center.

The development will still hold a 15,000-square-foot concert and special event venue and share the site with a 9,000-square-foot Bourbon Brothers restaurant, with a 1,500-square-foot rooftop bar and an outdoor patio area, according to city planning documents. B Entertainment plans to hold 100 to 120 ticketed shows and an additional 100 events such as weddings, conventions, sporting events and proms, per year. 

The previous site plan had the entertainment venue and patio closer to Broad Street, right across from The Arts Council’s outdoor pavilion and entertainment venue.

The new site plan, presented Tuesday by B Entertainment’s Chief Operations Officer Robert Mudd, showed an L-shaped joining of the venue and the restaurant in which the venue would face Jesse Jewell Parkway and abut Maple Street on the south and east sides of the property respectively, and the restaurant, including its rooftop bar area, would sit at the corner of Broad Street and Maple Street. Forty parking spaces would be located on the west side of the property near West Academy Street.

B Entertainment introduced a new condition for the property that would allow The Arts Council to request no amplified sound from the entertainment venue on five Fridays and 10 Saturdays each year, as long as they would provide at least eight weeks notice. 

Members of The Arts Council have been major opponents of this development throughout the rezoning application process with repeated concerns about noise and traffic from the new venue conflicting with their own shows, and concerns about the city honoring its 2018 land acquisition agreement with The Arts Council. 

In 2018, the city acquired a 0.44-acre plot of land from The Arts Council, which is part of the five-parcel lot the city is rezoning to accommodate the new development. Conditions in the agreement included the city providing a digital sign on which The Arts Council could promote itself and providing 40 parking spaces that The Arts Council could use 12 times per year. 

Certain aspects of the agreement were not honored by the city, resulting in the city paying a $100,000 penalty to The Arts Council in June. 

At the meeting Tuesday, Matt Reeves, a lawyer representing The Arts Council, said the new site plan was a significant improvement but still not enough to warrant their support. Reeves asked the City Council to table the application to provide more time to work on the site plans and other conditions, including honoring the 2018 land acquisition agreement. 

“Important things shouldn’t be rush jobs,” Reeves said. “Measure twice, cut once. Treat longtime friends right, and of course, make new friends.”

Councilman Zack Thompson said after the meeting he had met with The Arts Council’s executive director, Gladys Wyant, multiple times regarding the development and felt the adjusted site plans helped respond to some previous concerns, such as reducing noise interference. The project would likely attract people from surrounding areas who would get to see Gainesville’s downtown, Thompson said. 

“I hope they spend some money here, maybe move here,” Thompson said. 

The venue would seat up to 500 people and could fit 1,400 people when tables are cleared out, Mudd said, though 90% of shows will be seated. It will be designed to fit a historic, downtown Gainesville look with a brick exterior, Mudd said. About 20% of ticket sales are expected to come from outside of Gainesville, he said. 

B Entertainment plans to start construction soon and celebrate groundbreaking on Oct. 1, Mudd said. They plan to complete the project by August 2022.