The building on St. Charles Avenue that was host to both the Fat Hen Grocery and the Uptown expansion of Willie Mae’s Scotch House in recent years is being considered for a nail salon next, according to documents filed with the city.
A company owned by Thien Nguyen bought the building at 7457 St. Charles Avenue in late 2017, following the closure of Willie Mae’s Grocery and Deli earlier in the year. In early June, Nguyen submitted an application to convert the former restaurant into a nail salon, with detailed renovation plans for the new business to be named “La Vang Pearl.”
While the property has residential zoning, the city allowed the restaurant to operate there because it was grandfathered by what is known as a “legal, non-conforming use,” indicating that its commercial use had predated the residential zoning. To retain that use, however, a business must remain in operation with gaps of no more than six months, and city officials determined that the building appears to have been closed too long now to qualify.
“Absent any further supporting documentation that the restaurant continued to operate into 2018, the location would appear to have exceeded its vacancy limit of six months for retention of non-conforming use,” wrote assistant zoning administrator Todd Breckman in a report on June 15. To re-open a business, Breckman wrote, “The applicant may seek a conditional use approval for a neighborhood commercial establishment through the City Planning Commission.”
A “neighborhood commercial establishment” is allowed in some residential districts, but limited to a small number of uses: an art gallery or studio, day care center, an office, a “personal services establishment,” a specialty restaurant or a retail store.
Staffers for the City Planning Commission also sent Nguyen instructions on how to prepare for a meeting through the Neighborhood Participation Program.
Willie Mae’s had occupied the space since 2014, following Fat Hen Grocery’s stint which ran from its opening in 2011 until it closed in 2013.