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Stage fight: Why Arts Council is concerned about entertainment venue across street from its own
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The Arts Council is concerned about a proposed venue from B Entertainment that would sit on the Engine 209 site directly across from the council's new outdoor venue. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Arts Council’s opposition to a new entertainment venue being proposed downtown has a lengthy history. 

Abbott S. Hayes, a lawyer representing the city, wrote in an Oct. 13, 2017, email to Arts Council representatives that the city wanted to use some of the nonprofit’s land to address downtown parking issues.

In January 2018, the city of Gainesville purchased a 0.44-acre lot from The Arts Council for $300,000. With the sale, the city agreed to provide 40 public parking spaces, reserved for the nonprofit 12 days a year, and a digital sign The Arts Council could use to advertise events, according to city documents obtained by the Times.

The city has not provided the required public parking spaces. However, the agreement also notes that creating these spaces could take several years and does not state a specific timeline. 

Regarding the digital sign, the agreement states, “Representatives of the Arts Council will participate in the location and design process for a color high quality digital sign belonging to the City with 50% of the ‘flips’ guaranteed to the Arts Council for the life of the sign, but at least 25 years.” 

The sign hasn’t been provided either.

The lack of action to honor certain aspects of the agreement resulted in a $100,000 penalty the city paid The Arts Council in late June of this year, said Gladys Wyant, The Arts Council’s executive director.

The lot is adjacent to where Engine 209 sits and fronts Broad Street to the north and Jesse Jewell Parkway to the south. It is now part of the 1.7-acre lot the city is proposing to rezone for a new entertainment venue and restaurant.

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Engine 209 Park sits along Jesse Jewell Parkway just south of the square. A proposed 15,000-square-foot music and event venue where Engine 209 now sits goes before the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on June 8. - photo by Shannon Casas

B Entertainment would build a 15,000-square-foot concert and special event venue and a 9,000-square-foot Bourbon Brothers restaurant with a rooftop bar and an 8,000-square-foot 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.

But The Arts Council recently finished its own $1 million outdoor venue, which sits just across Broad Street. Members of The Arts Council are concerned the B Entertainment venue would cause significant noise interference, more intense traffic and decrease The Arts Council’s ability to run its venue on its own schedule. 

“It’s important what goes on that property (is) in tandem with the other … downtown businesses so that it makes Gainesville, Hall County a vibrant community, makes us a destination in a positive way,” Wyant said. 

At the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board’s July 13 meeting, R. Matt Reeves, a lawyer representing The Arts Council, presented 18 conditions the nonprofit wants added to the proposal. Reeves asked that the board table the application, though it was already tabled at the board’s June meeting because of concerns from The Arts Council. 

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The Arts Council is concerned about a proposed venue from B Entertainment that would sit on the Engine 209 site directly across from the council's new outdoor venue. - photo by Scott Rogers

The conditions included dedicating 40 Bourbon Brothers parking spaces for Arts Council use 12 times per year, similar to the 2018 agreement. Conditions also called for moving the outdoor patio space to face Jesse Jewell Parkway instead of Broad Street, planting trees between the two venues on the Bourbon Brothers side of Broad Street, no entrance to the restaurant or concert venue on Broad Street and requiring no amplified outdoor sound on Friday or Saturday evenings, except for 26 days per year. 

The board voted to recommend approval of the project at the meeting without including the conditions presented by Reeves, though the board had not seen those conditions before the meeting. 

The application will go before the Gainesville City Council on Aug. 3 for a final vote.

“We would like to be able to use our venue whenever we want to and not be dictated by another entity that has not been here,” Wyant said.

Robert Mudd, chief operating officer of B Entertainment, said his company is willing to grant The Arts Council those parking spaces 12 times per year. It also offered to plant a natural barrier on The Arts Council’s side of Broad Street, though Wyant said they would prefer the noise buffer to be on the other side of the street. 

Mudd said he has met with The Arts Council on several occasions since April in an effort to hear and respond to concerns. 

“I think that The Arts Council is a treasure of Gainesville, and I see significant opportunity to partner,” Mudd said at the July 13 meeting. “It’s going to truly become an asset to the city of Gainesville.”

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