Purcellville BAR Objects to Painting of Downtown Building

The opening of a new restaurant in Purcellville’s old town business district has hits a brick wall of sorts.

While approving most of the exterior upgrades being undertaken by the new owners of the former Jack’s Run Brewer building on North 21st Street, the Board of Architectural Review objected to plans to whitewash the red brick building. That paint job had already begun on portions of the building, but was halted last month after the owners learned town approval was needed. As a condition of the Oct. 28 approval, the BAR required the owners work with experts to remove the paint. 

That requirement drew objections from the owner, Shane O’Connor, who has been working for more than a year to establish the Bia Kitchen, a gourmet restaurant and cocktail bar, in the 120-year-old, two-story building.

He appealed to the Town Council for help.

“They recommended reaching out to the preservationist group that recently worked on the US Capital building to remove graffiti from the January 6th insurrection. This is not an option,” O’Connor wrote in a letter to the council. “We have already invested 2 years and $2.7m into the building restoration, restaurant construction and operations at premier levels of design and craftsmanship. We are now investing an additional $40k into the building’s facade using 110-year-old period windows, pilasters and other materials recently salvaged.”

The Purcellville Architectural Review Board is pressing to remove the whitewash paint treatment on the walls of the new Bia Kitchen building on North 21st Street.

The restauranteur, who previously ran the Blackthorne Inn and Restaurant in Upperville, questioned the town’s commitment to bringing in new businesses and investment.

“When I shared with the BAR that we are unable to assume the high costs of bringing in professional preservationist to remove the paint, their immediate and somewhat disrespectful response was that the costs were not their concern or issue,” he wrote. “In my opinion, they do not appreciate or understand the true restoration efforts of historic buildings or the economic development of our town. It is disappointing that they would rather see commercial buildings abandoned and deteriorated, than support the efforts of those trying to save these buildings. In addition, our projects will make significant improvements to the downtown area, generate a high percentage of revenue for the town and will be welcomed with open arms by the entire community.”

While other brick buildings along North 21st Street are painted, including several white ones, the BAR sought to keep the red brick appearance.

“The BAR has taken this action in an ongoing effort to protect original building facades within the historic downtown,” town planner Andy Colon wrote in a staff report to the council. 

“Both staff and the BAR are aware of products and techniques available to remove paint from masonry. The BAR has expressed that if these products or techniques prove to be unreasonably expensive or ineffective, they will consider approving an appropriate color to paint the building.”

In discussing the issue Tuesday night, Council members agreed to let the issue play out at the BAR level, but made it clear that they would not let the paint debate slow or block the opening of the new restaurant. 

The architectural review panel also took that position, stating in its approval motion that it was “not the intention of the BAR to withhold occupancy of the building prior to resolving this issue.”

5 thoughts on “Purcellville BAR Objects to Painting of Downtown Building

  • 2021-11-10 at 2:38 pm

    When you have to seek permission to whitewash a building that you lease or own it is clear that government has overstepped any reasonable boundaries on property rights. Historically, buildings have been whitewashed and had the whitewash removed at different times. This should be a decision between the owner and lessee and not the town. If you want to less prosperity, impose pointless and arbitrary regulations on entrepreneurs.

  • 2021-11-10 at 3:13 pm

    I’m hoping this will prove to be a tempest in a teapot & resolved in the near future. It’s good to know that no oversight agency is trying to prevent the grand opening of Bia Kitchen. Obviously, the owner is taking the venture very seriously. If he previously operated in Upperville, he’s no fly-by-night. True, the partially-whitewashed walls aren’t in keeping with historic Purcellville. (The Purcell family must be rolling in their graves.) But I don’t see the bungle as a deal-breaker. BTW, if they offer vegan/veggie fare, I’d be honored to eat there someday if given the opportunity.

  • 2021-11-11 at 3:03 am

    Hogwash regarding the comment about changes to buildings on 21st Street causing the Purcell family to roll in their graves. All but 2 of the other brick and block buildings on that street are painted. The Town approved the repainting of Nichol’s Hardware building recently. The BAR has been out of control since its inception.

    • 2021-11-12 at 4:29 pm

      Good for you! Yup, bureaucracy at it’s finest. Yes, original brick is probably the most authentic option but it should not be an issue…it isn’t Jimmy Buffett’s Flamingo Grill! Get a grip!

  • 2021-11-13 at 12:50 pm

    Sounds like much to do about nothing. The paint isn’t permanent.

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