Thunderbird Cafe given OK to expand

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The zoning board of adjustment has approved variances for a proposed expansion of the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville to include a second restaurant and seven residential units on upper floors.

The Thunderbird would occupy 9,100 square feet at 4021-4027 Butler St. and a second restaurant at 4029 Butler would be 2,400 square feet.

The restaurant, bar and live music venue met some opposition from nearby residents who argued that the cafe's location is traffic-congested now and that valet parking, band buses and other support vehicles will make it worse.

Christopher Lasky, an architect and the owner's agent, said he was "obviously very happy" about the board's decision but anticipates an appeal by opponents.

"We have a great deal of community support," Mr. Lasky said. "We are going to end up providing more parking than the zoning board required. Right now there is no parking."

The live music club will hold 625 patrons, but Mr. Lasky said most shows will draw 300-325.

"A promoter is looking for potential," he said. "We have to be able to compete with the Altar Bar [in the Strip] and Mr. Small's" in Millvale.

The board cited a traffic study and the cafe's lease and valet parking arrangements to conclude the expansion will not create traffic impacts on the neighborhood. A valet parking plan is pending the board's consideration.

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