Boulevard Brewery’s plans for outdoor beer garden met with resistance from neighbors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Boulevard Brewing Company is continuing to grow its footprint on the city’s west side. The newest plans call for adding an outdoor beer garden next to the visitor's center.  But not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

The proposed site for the beer garden is a grass lot Boulevard owns. It is sandwiched between the visitor’s center and Sacred Heart/Guadalupe Catholic Church. People who live close by are worried about the impact more drinking space so close to their homes and place of worship might have on the community.

You can take a few steps from Juanita Franco’s house and be on the front steps of her church, Sacred Heart/Guadalupe. She loves her life-long neighborhood and is worried a new space at Boulevard could disrupt it.

She says drivers often speed down her street, or go up the one-way road the wrong direction. Recently, she even had a drunk driver pass out in front of her home.

“It’s going to have impact a lot because there’s going to be a lot of traffic coming. We have kids down here. We’ve got kids playing baseball that have to watch out for cars. That’s our biggest concern,” Franco said.

Boulevard is considering converting a lot it owns into a seasonal outdoor beer garden. The company was thinking of just swapping out a window for a door, adding a sidewalk with steps, and fencing in the space would be a simple way to give patrons another place to enjoy a cold one. But they learned because the space used to house a church rectory, it’s not zoned for business use. So it’s put in a request with the city to re-zone the property.

“If they are going to rezone that, what are they going to rezone next? Are they going to take the hall? Are they going to come up here and want our house?” said Franco.

The brewery says those fears are far-fetched. It insists it is committed to being a good neighbor and has already agreed with the church to keep current hours of closing at 8 p.m., have no outdoor TVs or live music, and host no events outdoors during mass or funeral services.

“Based upon the history of what Boulevard has demonstrated, I’m very confident we’re not going to have issues. And if issues were to arise, I know that with the leadership over at Boulevard, we can go and talk to them and say here’s a problem we are having and  you need to address it,” said John Fierro with the Mattie Rhodes Center.

Fierro is president of the Mattie Rhodes Center on the west side.  He’s lived in the area 40 years and attends Sacred Heart/Guadalupe. The Mattie Rhodes Center signed a letter of support for Boulevard’s new outdoor space.  He says he can respect the concerns of neighbors, but thinks there’s a bigger picture to consider.

“Maybe a beer garden isn’t what people want, but when you look at the company and what it has accomplished, not only for this neighborhood and our city, but to bring attention to this neighborhood and support efforts of the community, I think we have to focus on that and try to find a way to resolve this,” said Fierro.

Neighbors have suggested Boulevard consider a rooftop patio instead of a beer garden so close to the church.

As of now, the company is set to take the proposed zoning change to the city next month. But Boulevard says it is listening to all concerns, and ultimately wants to do what is best for the community even if that means the beer garden project does not move forward.