Food Fight

Dogtown residents say the noisy Restaurant Depot has ruined their once tranquil neighborhood.

Waterhouse originally wanted Restaurant Depot to locate in St. Louis Marketplace, the floundering shopping center on Manchester Avenue that has — until recently — sat nearly empty. "But they needed a higher ceiling than what the marketplace was able to accommodate," he says. "They weren't willing to go along with it."

The alderman then suggested the auto salvage lot. Waterhouse says his predecessor — former alderman Tom Bauer, who was ousted from office in a 2005 recall vote — blighted the junkyard with the intent of turning it into a residential development. Those plans backfired when a soil sample revealed pollution on the site. Waterhouse says the property is zoned industrial.

"You'd have to remove the first 27 feet of soil in order to build homes there," says Waterhouse. "Non-residential use — on the other hand — required that just five feet of soil be removed. The $1.8 million grant we offered was to pay the costs to remediate the soil and pour a foundation on what remains very unstable ground."

Rich Brucker hopes a petition will address neighbors' complaints about noisy nights.
Rich Brucker hopes a petition will address neighbors' complaints about noisy nights.

More recently Restaurant Depot raised the ire of neighbors when it bulldozed a vacant lot it owns on Dale Avenue, immediately adjacent to the store. When weeds on the lot grew ankle-deep this August, next-door neighbor Tom Garrighan says he called the city to complain. The forestry department mowed the property and sent Garrighan a bill for more than $600. Garrighan eventually settled the bill with the city, but now wishes he never called in the first place. When weeds began to reappear last month, Restaurant Depot brought in a front-loader and striped the lot clean of all vegetation.

"They left us living next to a dirt patch," laments Garrighan, whose house backs into the giant condenser units used to refrigerate the store. "It's one of those things that leaves you wondering: 'How did it get this far?'"

Most puzzling to Garrighan is why the city didn't demand Restaurant Depot address the concerns of residents before handing it a $1.8 million tax subsidy. Part of that money, he reasons, should have gone to erecting a fence along Restaurant Depot's property and installing sound barriers to mute the refrigeration units that keep him awake at night. Unlike his wife, Garrighan says he was willing to give Restaurant Depot a few months to rectify the problems. Those days are over.

"They're just a bad neighbor," opines Garrighan. "What else can I say?"

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