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Planning Commission backs ‘Vola’s’ expansion, laments death of taco truck

A Planning Commission endorsement of Vola’s Dockside Grill’s (101 N. Union) expansion plans came with two notes: the city should loosen up on its Torpedo Factory-adjacent noise restrictions and there’s a regrettable dearth of vegetarian options in Old Town.

The Planning Commission voted 6-0 with one recusal in favor of Vola’s plans to permanently convert the former Riverside Taco area into more outdoor seating.

In the meeting, Planning Commission chair Nathan Macek said the city should do more to simplify conditions and be a little less prudish when it comes to noise on the waterfront.

“We need to simplify conditions where possible so we’re not making the same statement over and over about the noise ordinance with three or four different conditions that do that,” Macek said.
“We need to be straightforward and precise and do that once.”

The change also allows more outdoor entertainment at the site, like removing restrictions on live entertainment prior to Torpedo Factory closing hours.

“I think we were too restrictive in our original recommendations at the taco site,” Macek said. “I’m less concerned with whether this penetrates the walls of the Torpedo Factory. It’s not a hospital. It’s not a senior citizen home. It is something we’re trying to make vibrant and I think these conditions would allow for what we’re really after… to make our waterfront a lively place.”

Commissioner David Brown also expressed support for the application, saying the expansion is a positive sign of the restaurant’s stability.

“We’re going through a time when many restaurants have been going through a real economic wringer,” Brown said. “This is a sure sign of a restaurant that is succeeding. As someone who had the pleasure for all too brief a time of knowing and working with Vola Lawson, I think she’d be really pleased that her namesake restaurant is succeeding.”

The one lament Planning Commissioners had was that the application marked the final nail in the coffin of hopes that Riverside Taco would return.

“It was a sad day when that taco truck stopped serving tacos,” Macek said. “I wish Vola’s had as many vegetarian options as the taco truck did.”