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City commission approves Phoenicia expansion

By Grace Lovins

Birmingham's Phoenicia restaurant was approved for a 1,381-square-foot addition to the rear of its building, adding to the restaurant’s back-of-house space and kitchen facilities as well as a new private dining room, as a final site plan and design plan review application was unanimously approved by the Birmingham City Commission on Monday, June 27.

Phoenicia, owned by Sameer and Samy Eid, has been located at 588 S. Old Woodward Avenue since 1981. Along with adding to the restaurant’s back of house space and updating the kitchen facilities, the expansion will create additional employee storage and bathrooms, additional landscaping surrounding their parking lot, a new outdoor dining in the reconstructed S. Old Woodward right-of-way, and a 495-square-foot private dining room with 14 seats.

Architect Victor Saroki noted that the updated kitchen comes as a necessity for the restaurant. The building itself was constructed in 1978, serving as the location of a different restaurant. The kitchen has remained untouched in terms of renovations since the opening of the building. Saroki stated it is small and antiquated, and that it is finally time for some renovations.

With the new expansion in the rear of the building, Phoenicia will lose 20 off-street parking spaces in its adjacent lot, disrupting the restaurant’s adherence to the parking requirements that coincide with seating as per the city’s zoning ordinance. However, Samy Eid entered a five-year agreement with the 555 Building across S. Old Woodward, to utilize 20 excess spaces in the building's residence parking structure. Eid will be required to prove that the lease agreement between Phoenicia and the 555 Building has been maintained during the restaurant’s yearly liquor license review.

Commissioner Clinton Baller expressed concern over the parking agreement, asking Eid how the parking spaces will be utilized to satisfy the zoning ordinance requirements. Eid said that the parking spaces available through the agreement with the 555 Building will be used for employee parking as well as overflow valet parking.

City manager Tom Markus, as well as commissioner Andrew Haig, also expressed concern over the potential of the agreement collapsing. “Initially, it is set up as a five-year agreement but after two years, unilateral, meaning either party, can terminate with 90 days notice, and at that point you’re going to have a decision,” Markus said.

Haig reflected Markus’ concerns, stating he felt it would be discouraging to see Eid’s enduring business spend the money to rent the parking spaces with the risk of losing the ability to comply with city regulations should the agreement fall through.

“I’ve been told by Mr. Reinhart [management agent for the 555 Building] that the lease will stand and when it’s up in five years, that we will readdress it and renew it. The hope is to continue doing it. Obviously, I would be left in a horrible position if I was to lose that and I understand that thoroughly. That’s a risk that I’m willing to take because I need to do this for my business,” Eid responded.

The motion to approve the special land use permit and final site plan and design plan review was approved 7-0.


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