Is a new restaurant too much of a good thing? Several neighbors of a high-end eatery planned for Yountville believe so.
The owner of Ma(i)sonry has put on hold its effort to add food service to its tasting room in the Upvalley resort community, as well as expand its neighboring future eatery RH Gallery to offer three meals a day and host guests as late as 2 a.m. on weekends.
After complaints from area homeowners about nighttime traffic and noise around the tasting room and art gallery, representatives for Restoration Hardware, the luxury home-furnishing firm that runs the Ma(i)sonry wine collective in a historic 1904 stone structure at 6711 Washington St., pulled back the company’s proposal shortly before a scheduled Town Council review earlier this month.
Yountville leaders then voted to postpone the town’s review – but not before giving voice to residents, including some living in townhomes directly behind the property.
“I think this whole proposal, this intensification of the original (use), is a good-neighbor issue,” said Pamela Reeves, who along with other townsfolk predicted worsening parking shortages and quality-of-life problems if the two businesses are allowed to expand both their menus and their evening hours.
Allowing Restoration Hardware to pack more diners and drinkers into the same spaces will put residents on the hook for the disruptions caused by visitors, she predicted.
“Normally, you expect people to deal with their own issues on their own property,” Reeves told the council Feb. 7. “If I decided to remodel my house, and then expected I could park on my neighbor’s yard, I think that would not be approved – and I would not expect it would be approved.”
In addition to remaking the five-year-old Ma(i)sonry, the company also is developing RH Gallery, a glass-roofed restaurant, next door on a vacant site that hosted a steakhouse and an Italian restaurant in the past. Yountville approved that development in June 2015.
But in a break with earlier plans sent to the city, Restoration applied for permission to add dinner to RH Gallery’s breakfast-and-lunch schedule – and bring table service next door to the wine-oriented Ma(i)sonry.
The revision would create 92 indoor and patio seats at RH Gallery and another 94 at Ma(i)sonry. Restoration Hardware would apply for two state alcohol licenses – one type for both restaurants and another, for drink sales without food, for a wine bar in the Ma(i)sonry building, which would be rechristened RH Wine Vault.
Owners also seek to keep RH Wine Vault open through 2 a.m. on weekends and until midnight on other evenings. Outdoor seating would be available through at least 9 p.m., and until 10 p.m. on weekends.
However, the owner’s hopes for more seats and longer hours drew the ire of its nearest neighbors, some of whom spoke of noise from evening parties and guest vehicles often blocking a driveway that serves both the tasting room and the Burgundy Commons homes directly behind it.
“The fact this has become such a big project is another example of bait-and-switch tactics; it’s that simple,” said Joann Cruz, a neighborhood resident. “Two restaurants, a bar, a retail outlet – what is happening to Yountville? I’m struggling to see how a project that can change to something of this magnitude does anything to support the residents, the integrity of what Yountville stands for.”
The idea of the Ma(i)sonry building becoming a busier hub also triggered skepticism in Mayor John Dunbar, who pointed to the building’s much quieter history in the neighborhood – first as the home of the early 20th-century vineyardist Charles Rovegno, and later as a seven-room inn that operated from the mid-1970s until 2007.
“I do see a difference for a place that has been a bed-and-breakfast, an art gallery and a wine tasting room,” he told Restoration representatives. “To go to a full-service restaurant, I have serious reservations about that, regardless of the (operating hours) we’re talking about.”
Upgrading restaurant services at the existing and future buildings will trigger a requirement for more parking spaces, for which Ma(i)sonry’s owner has proposed a mix of 42 on-site valet slots for guests and the leasing of town-owned space west of Yountville Community Park for 36 employee vehicles. Town staff also must decide whether changes to the building – which would include swapping the locations of an exterior window and door – are consistent with its listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Stuart Wagner, a Restoration planning and development director, told Yountville officials the company will re-evaluate its parking and other arrangements before offering a revised building plan. No new review date has been announced.
Reeves, the Yountville neighbor, described the rural peacefulness of her community as something worth defending even as tourism continues to reshape it.
“People might say the old Yountville is long gone,” she told council members. “But the only reason people want to build or live or visit here, is because of the foundations of the old Yountville, not the exceptions to the foundations. We have very few permanent residents left in a lot of our neighborhoods, and those of us who are still here really cherish the old Yountville.”