Spartanburg’s DRB approves plan for downtown beer garden

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FR8 Yard, a beer garden concept envisioned for a vacant lot in downtown Spartanburg, cleared its first hurdle Wednesday night.

The city’s Design Review Board approved plans for the outdoor dining and community gathering spot, which developers said will be on par with similar concepts in Austin, Chicago and Philadelphia.

“We’re really excited to do this project for Spartanburg,” said Bill Burton, a principal of Spartanburg-based Hub City Hospitality, the restaurant group that owns and operates Willy Taco restaurants in Spartanburg and Greenville. “It’s an investment in our community. It’s something that we saw in big metropolitan centers that we felt we had the opportunity to do here.”

FR8 Yard will be on about one-third of an acre at 125 E. Main St. adjacent to Sparkle City Mini Putt and between the historic Kress building and Venus Beauty Supply.

The site once housed The Elite Restaurant and W&W Cafeteria, which was destroyed by fire in 1961. It is owned by South Phifer Properties, a subsidiary of Johnson Development Associates, headquartered in downtown.

For years, local officials have imagined the site being home to a multi-story development providing restaurant or retail opportunities for downtown patrons.

DRB members called the plan put forward by Hub City Hospitality, South Phifer Properties and their design partner Spartanburg-based McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture “unprecedented.”

The members said their review was based on their interpretation of the city’s urban code that it is intended to enliven downtown and stimulate pedestrian activity.

“This is the kind of thing that will do it,” said Mike Henthorn, a member of the board.

The DRB approved the plan with certain conditions, including repositioning the FR8 Yard’s façade to line up with neighboring buildings, a review of signage plans and a final stamp of approval by city staff.

DRB members also encouraged designers to connect the development in some way with Sparkle City Mini Putt.

“This is a great use of that space,” said DRB member Tip Pitts. “It’s a wonderful project. I think it will be a great addition to downtown.”

Assistant City Manager Chris Story said he was pleased to see the project move forward, as he expects it will be a boon for downtown.

Spartanburg resident Basil Mathis came forward during the meeting to voice concerns about noise and the potential for FR8 Yard customers to carry alcohol off of the premises.

Richard Heatly with Hub City Hospitality said the eatery’s atmosphere and hours of operation will be family friendly and respectful of surrounding residents and businesses.

Story said officers with the city’s downtown patrol would provide the same service to the site as they would to any other business in downtown.

The 12,000-square-foot development will include seating for more than 200 people. Plans showed the kitchen, bar and restrooms will be located in structures resembling shipping containers.

A bocce ball court, fire pits, a ping-pong table, rooftop seating, and projectors streaming sports games or movies are also planned.

Burton and Heatly said the menu will feature inspired, delicious and affordable dishes crafted by Spartanburg chef William Cribb. The bar is expected to serve domestic craft and German beers.

“We think Spartanburg is the right fit and primed for something like this,” Burton said.

For more information, visit FR8 Yard’s Facebook page.

Top: Rendering by McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture

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