On a recent Sunday morning, a crowd of Blue Moon Diner patrons could be seen hovering outside the side door of the self-proclaimed “best little breakfast, sandwich, burger, dinner, live music, arm wrestling, vinyl record-playing, family-friendly neighborhood bar and activist spot” with menus in hand. Lovers of the eatery, a Charlottesville institution, are shoveling in their last bites before it closes—briefly.
Owner Laura Galgano says the diner will shut down for some renovations, or “more of a reboot,” at the end of May. And because the 31st is a Wednesday, she said her crew thought it would be fitting “to go out with Jim Waive to serenade us into a break.”
Blue Moon, built in 1951 at 512 W. Main St. and originally operated as the Waffle Shop, is an addition on the facade of a two-story duplex called the Hartnagle-Witt House, which was built in 1884. A six-story mixed-use apartment complex called 600 West Main, proposed by developer Jeff Levien and designed by architect Jeff Dreyfus is set for construction at that address, which includes Blue Moon, this summer.
Galgano says the diner will get a few “very unsexy updates,” to the HVAC and electrical systems and the bathrooms, and “just enough renovation to set Blue Moon up to grow with Charlottesville’s ever-expanding restaurant scene.”
The diner’s hiatus will last until early 2018. For the staff of about 15 people (including Galgano) that will find other work around town and the customers, she says “change is hard,” but she’s focusing on the positives—that this isn’t a goodbye.
“We’re just going to go out into the world for a bit to get some new stories to share,” she says.
“We will be back, and still very much Blue Moony,” Galgano adds.
Bye bye, buildings
Blue Moon isn’t the only downtown historic building facing changes. The Board of Architectural Review voted April 18 to allow for the demolition of the Escafé and Main Street Arena structures, but not without some hesitation.
“About the only thing the [Main Street Arena] building has going for itself is that it’s still structurally sound,” says BAR member Carl Schwarz. “The Escafé building is much older.”
The Escafé building was built in the 1920s, when it served as a warehouse for a department store on Main Street. He says it’s a small remnant of when Water Street had similar industrial and warehouse buildings, and every time one is demolished, the collection that remains becomes less significant.
“Additionally, while overall pretty simple in form, the building does have some interesting features with a stepped parapet and brick pilasters in the front,” he adds.
Though the BAR voted unanimously to allow demolition of the arena, the same vote for Escafé passed 5-2. Schwarz was part of the majority.
“My reasoning was that while old, the building is not significant enough to enforce preservation,” he says. “Even without it, Water Street will still maintain its defining warehouse character due to better examples along the street. To be clear, though, this was not an easy vote.”
Escafé owner Todd Howard says “there’s still a great deal of uncertainty” surrounding the future of his restaurant, but he hopes to open it in another location.
Corrected April 26 at 11:22am to reflect the correct number of floors at 600 West Main.