New restaurant granted alcohol permit
A permit allowing the sale of alcohol was granted to the owner of the new Hibachi-style restaurant on Washington Street East during a Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Thursday.
The board unanimously voted to grant a conditional use permit to Carina Kwok, allowing her to sell alcohol at Umami, located at 1403 Washington St. E. in the building that formerly housed the Trading Post pawnshop.
Kwok also owns Main Kwong, the Chinese restaurant that has been operating on the city's East End for more than 20 years.
She hasn't set an exact opening date for Umami but hopes for sometime in November. She said most renovations to the building are complete.
"We just need our final inspection," she said.
"Umami" is a Japanese word for pleasant, savory taste.
The planning commission staff recommended that the permit be granted because the restaurant is consistent with other businesses in the area, said Lori Brannon, Charleston neighborhood planner.
"And it's primarily a restaurant and serving alcohol is secondary," she said. "It's not going to be just a bar."
City planners also are pleased that Kwok is transforming a long vacant pawnshop into a new destination on the East End.
No one opposed the permit. Councilman Marc Weintraub, who represents an East End ward, and East End Main Street Executive Director Ric Cavender spoke in favor of the project.
"This just adds to the eclectic mix of restaurants and happy hour spots we have on the East End," Cavender said.
Kwok has been involved in the revitalization of the East End for many years, he said.
Cavender is also pleased that Kwok is renovating the vacant space, which he called an "eyesore."
"They (Trading Post) had caged windows and a gate around the front door to keep it locked," he said. "The paint was bad and the windows were awful.
"The outside just looked really bad."
The building has been vacant for about five years.
Kwok took advantage of the East End Main Street facade and sign grant program. She will be reimbursed $5,000 for improvements and $1,500 for signs, Cavender said.
"Carina (Kwok) is one of the East End businesspeople that get what we're trying to do on the East End," he said. "It's a great example of East End Main Street teaming up with a neighborhood business."
The building is about 3,000 square feet.
The decision does not have to go before the full city council for approval. However, it could be appealed to Kanawha Circuit Court, Brannon said.
The board also approved the installation of digital signs at five One Stops around the city.
A city ordinance prohibits the installation of digital signs because they can be distracting to drivers, Brannon said.
However, the planning department staff recommended the request be granted because the digital signs will be used only to display the price of gasoline.
"This is a unique situation because gas prices can change a couple of times in a week," Brannon said. "And in some extreme circumstances the gas prices can change a couple of times a day."
Gas station employees can easily change the prices on digital signs.