Wilders bistro approved for N. Old Woodward
By Grace Lovins
Wilders Bistro, a new restaurant to be located at 460 N. Old Woodward, received approval for a special land use permit and final site plan and design review from the Birmingham City Commission on Monday, September 20.
With a new three-story mixed use building being constructed on the site, Wilders Bistro will occupy the first floor and lower level of the new development, with the second and third levels reserved for offices and residential uses. The bistro will also feature an on-street outdoor dining platform holding 24 seats and eight tables.
The bistro was one of two chosen to receive a specialty liquor license in 2022, which provided the opportunity for restauranteurs to obtain liquor licenses beyond the limited number of Class C licenses available. However, they are required to have a traditional bistro appeal by maintaining outdoor seating, as well as limiting seats to 65 or less, including 10 at the bar.
Owner Sammy Eid told the commission he was excited to move forward with the project after almost three years of planning. “This has been a passion project now for the better part of two-and-a half-years, held up quite a bit by COVID-19 and life in general of course. This is born out of what, I think, the spirit of the bistro license was at its inception,” Eid said. “We’re a food-focused restaurant team that loves the city of Birmingham and would love to make another addition. This is one we’ve been waiting for and we’re very excited and honored that you guys are taking the time to consider it.”
After a concern was raised about the safety of the parking lot during public comments, architect Victor Saroki explained the precautions that were taken to ensure a safe route in and out of the lot. He noted that the plan actually improves the situation, an opinion he said was shared by the planning board. The new development and the existing office building next to it will have a common shared driveway with a one-way entrance and exit.
Saroki additionally stated that the bistro would be happy to put up signs directing traffic, indicating parking spaces for each business, and potentially a stop sign at the exit to ensure cars don’t impede over the sidewalk too quickly and endanger pedestrians.
However, commissioner Andrew Haig questioned if there is a need for traffic consultants to look at the space. Assistant city manager Jana Ecker responded, saying that in her experience working with traffic engineers, the area would be considered safe because it allows access management.
“You’re going from two areas where you’re going to have conflicts between people and cars down to one, which is always their goal,” Ecker said.
Commissioner Elaine McLain highlighted the bistro’s thoughtfulness and willingness to collaborate with the building next door. “I’m looking forward to the signage and this discussion of safety as being a template for other businesses working together in the future,” McLain said. “This is a good example.”
The commission approved the special land use permit and final site plan and design review for Wilders in a 5-0 vote, with commissioners Brad Host and Pierre Boutros absent from the meeting.