The opening of Twin Sisters Brewing Company earlier this month was wildly successful, but it has meant a major adjustment for what was once a quiet residential neighborhood.
Residents had plenty of questions and suggestions for the owners and city officials at the Sunnyland Neighborhood Association Thursday evening inside the brewery at 500 Carolina St.. Neighbors are concerned about the traffic that has swamped the block the past few weeks.
The brewery, also known as Bellingham Beer Garden, had more than 10,000 visitors in the first week of business in what was supposed to be a soft opening, according to the company. This weekend’s official grand opening celebration was to include a variety of events, including live music.
The neighborhood meeting, which had more than 70 people in attendance and was moderated by the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, touched on a wide range of topics, but most commonly discussed was parking and noise. While neighbors had some frustrations to express, much of the discussion was about identifying specific issues and asking what can be done.
Several neighborhood speakers also noted that they appreciate having the new business in the neighborhood because of the employment and revenue it is in bringing in. The brewery currently employs 106 people full-time with benefits, said Wade Clark, director of operations.
The brewery itself has already responded with several solutions after hearing from neighbors earlier. Clark said they were caught by surprise at how many people came by during the soft opening period, so they hired a parking attendant to stand out front helping people find legal parking.
Twin Sisters also received approval from the city to put in additional parking spaces in front of the brewery as well as additional bike racks. They’ve also reached out to Uber and Lyft to create an incentive program for people who use those ride-sharing businesses. The company is also using social media to educate people about parking as well as encouraging other ways to get there.
“We want to earn your respect and be a good neighbor,” Clark told the audience.
As for the city response, planners asked for patience as they continued to gather data. Rick Sepler, the city’s planning director, said at the meeting that they usually wait 4-6 weeks after the initial opening rush before doing a traffic count that could lead to changes.
As for parking, Bellingham police will be transitioning from education and warnings to more enforcement of parking rules, according to police officers who attended the meeting. For those visiting the brewery, here are some tips that came out of the meeting:
▪ Do not park on anyone’s lawn or other grassy areas. That would appear to be a basic parking 101 rule, but instances of that happening were brought up several times in the meeting.
▪ Do not park within 30 feet of a stop sign. There are several intersections around the brewery, and the 30-foot rule seems to be one that’s being broken more often.
▪ Be aware of surroundings while looking for a parking space and watch for pedestrians, including children, in the area.
▪ The brewery’s main parking lot can be a little hard to spot. The way to access it is going into an alley off of Virginia Street near Blythe Plumbing & Heating.
Addressing the noise of a brewery
Neighbors are concerned about the brewery’s industrial noise and the boisterous sounds from the beer garden.
Clark said they’ve been addressing the industrial noise complaints they’ve received. The chief culprit appears to be a large air conditioning unit. The brewery has installed a covering that projects the noise upward rather than outward, sending less noise toward the homes.
As for the noise typical for this type of business, education seems to be the main strategy. Clark said they will continue to remind customers to respect the neighborhood and take other measures, including ending live music events at 10 p.m. Police are also encouraging neighbors to call in noise complaints.
Other suggests were made about dealing with noise, including sound walls and changes to how noise projects out of the area.
All in all, it was a productive discussion between the neighbors, the business and city officials, said Erica Charbonneau, chair of the Sunnyland Neighborhood Association.
“Even people with opposing views chose to treat each other with respect and listen while their concerns were being addressed,” Charbonneau said. “This is one of the many reasons I love this neighborhood.”