Small wine shop planned for South White Street hoping to waive required off-street parking

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Joanne Close and Jim Yonkus are hoping to open an intimate wine shop at 1226 South White Street, if the BZA approves a required parking variance.

Developers are hoping to turn a vacant South White Street lot into an intimate wine shop, but three required parking spaces need to be waived in order for the space to be functional, the owners said.

Joanne Close and her husband Jim Yonkus are aiming to open a small wine store in the New Zion neighborhood just off South Broad Street. The property, a vacant lot at 1226 South White St., is zoned for heavy commercial use which requires the couple to add three off-street parking spots. But adding those parking spots would swallow up much of the already-tiny lot.

“We don’t have to have a huge building – it just has to be functional,” Close told a group of neighbors at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday. “Without the parking waiver, those spots would take up the whole lot.”

The couple plan to open a small wine store with room for a tasting bar and upstairs space for classes. The store would allow customers to sample wines and learn how to pair each with food, as well as offer cheese, crackers and other accoutrements to customers. The store would not make or sell cocktails and would typically open from noon to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. on the weekends.

Zoning setback ordinances mean the lot can only hold a 20-foot-wide building. Adding parking would eliminate nearly half of the planned structure, resulting in an unusable space, Close said. Plans include an upstairs mezzanine for intimate tasting and pairing classes attached to a small balcony overlooking most of the city. Close, a realtor by trade, said the shop would only cater to a few people at a time because of its size. The fire marshal has capped the building’s occupancy at 49 people.

“It’s not a nightclub. There would be some nights we would be there until 10 p.m., but we really don’t want to work that late,” Yonkus said.

There are a few larger businesses in the neighborhood – such as Restaurant Depot and Mossy Motors – but the surrounding blocks are mostly residential with mom-and-pop shops scattered throughout. Some residents expressed concern about large delivery trucks rolling through the already-potholed streets, but Yonkus said deliveries will usually come via average-sized vans. Michael Kiper, whose family has lived in the area for nearly a century, said he’s usually cautious about how new businesses will fit into the community.

“We were just concerned about what’s coming to the neighborhood,” Kiper said.

The couple have been in the food and wine business for years; Yonkus was previously co-owner of Keife & Co., a boutique wine and liquor shop in the Central Business District. The couple had been looking for a small space to open their own shop when they found the small lot “in the real Mid-City.”

“It’s in the middle of everything, and nobody knows this neighborhood is here,” Yonkus said.

The parking variance will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals in August and, if approved, will later head to the City Planning Commission.

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