Bonsai gets favorable recommendation for expansion request

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Noting that the business has been a “good neighbor,” the Whitefish Planning Board last week gave a positive recommendation for a proposed expansion of Bonsai Brewing Project.

Bonsai Brewing is seeking a conditional use permit to expand its operation by relocating some of the business to an adjacent building. It currently operates a microbrewery and tasting room at 549 Wisconsin Ave., but is looking expand the microbrewery into a nearby building at 635 Denver St.

City Councilor and Planning Board member Richard Hildner said when Bonsai first applied to operate at its location on Wisconsin Avenue there was a “long list of concerns” and those were addressed “beautifully.”

“I want to thank you for being a good neighbor and business person,” Hildner said.

Planning Board member Rebecca Norton echoed his statements and also noted her work on the Wisconsin Avenue corridor plan which looks to guide development in the area.

“This is the exact kind of venue we are looking for out there,” she said.

Brewery owners plan to move several aspects of their operation into the new building that is due east of the existing facility, including a prep kitchen and longterm storage of beer aging barrels. The move is expected to provide more room in their existing building for brewery operations and the adjacent lot provides the opportunity for more on-site parking.

Owner Graham Hart said the new space will allow for the beer barrels to be moved, allow for more storage space and the creation of an office.

The brewery already has a conditional use permit, but the expansion requires it to obtain a new CUP.

Bonsai plans to add a detached walk-in freezer outside the newly obtained building. The brewery and tap room will continue to operate under State Liquor Board requirements, which set hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and customers can be served a maximum of 48 ounces of beer per day.

In terms of parking, combined uses of the two buildings would require 23 total parking spaces and the owner shows 38 parking spaces on site.

Planning Director Dave Taylor said the city’s parking requirements are based upon the square footage of the building and does not count outdoor areas. He noted that because Bonsai has a large outdoor seating area it is good they will be providing additional parking above what’s required.

“We had complaints about the parking, but they’ve remedied that by purchasing the adjacent lot and we haven’t had any complaints since,” he said.

Taylor noted that Denver Street is on the city’s list of streets to be reconstructed and should include sidewalks after that work is completed. He estimated that work might happen in five years.

Currently at Bonsai only about half of the existing parking area is paved, and the remainder will be required to be paved and landscaped per city zoning regulations.

The planning department is recommending approval of the request with eight conditions.

Whitefish City Council will hold a public hearing on the matter at its Tuesday, Jan. 2 meeting.

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