Birmingham restaurateur Steve Simon, owner of Rojo Mexican and Sidecar, has proposed three separate restaurant concepts for the former Mitchell's site in Birmingham, including an expanded Sidecar, a pizza parlor called Slice, and Shift, an American eatery/lounge.
The three proposed restaurants came before the Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday, August 28, for a special land use permit and final site plan review, but the board postponed its decision until their September 11 meeting in order for the applicant to make corrections to the site plan, adding additional egress doors and adjusting the outdoor dining proposal for Slice in order to provide improved pedestrian access.
Birmingham Planner Jana Ecker explained to the board that the site already has an existing Class C liquor license, so there are no restrictions on seating, but city ordinance requires a special land use permit. Mitchell's Fish Market, 117 Willits, closed January 1, 2018, and the site has been vacant since.
Ecker said Simon is proposing to use the space as a whole, leaving the back of the house the same, with all three restaurants sharing the kitchen and with common ownership.
“There would be three different establishments under one roof,” Ecker said. “Each restaurant has its own different look and feel.”
Shift, an American eatery, would be in the former bar area of Mitchell's, with food specialties from across the country and custom alcoholic drinks and a contemporary lounge ambiance; Sidecar would relocate from Merrill Street, featuring a full menu of slider options, sides and alcoholic beverages with a rustic pub feel; and Slice is designed as traditional pizza parlor atmosphere and full pizzeria menu with alcohol service.
Shift is planned with 28 seats, 13 bar seats and another 13 outdoor seats; Sidecar would expand from its Merrill location, with 76 seats, 14 bar seats and 28 outdoor seats; and Slice is proposed to have 54 seats, 14 bar seats and 54 outdoor seats. There is also a private dining room in back that can offer an additional 32 spaces, Ecker said.
No architectural or landscaping changes are planned, she said, although a new entry door is planned for Slice. In addition, the fire department noted that additional egress exits are required since the space is being divided up.
Board members generally liked the proposals, but had concerns about the outdoor dining space for Slice, which left little room for comfortable pedestrian circulation around it.
Simon was asked why he was moving Sidecar, and he said, “Our lease is up in about a year, and our Rojo lease expires at the same time. We tried to negotiate. We were unable to come to an extension and we've moved in a new direction, with Rojo coming to an end. Slice, being a family establishment, which we feel Birmingham needs, we're looking to enliven that corner. Shift is having a Sugar House feel.”