The BID as Advocates for Business
By Gina Butler-Galliera, Co-Owner of The 700
My husband, Sean, and I purchased The 700, an original and long-standing Northern Liberties staple in late 2019. We had grown up near Northern Liberties but decided in 2000 to move to California with jobs in biotech and finance.
We heard through a close friend in late 2018 that The 700 was up for sale. We had long-time friendships with the previous owners, Kurt Wunder and Tracy Stanton, and felt a strong pull to get back to our roots and to maintain the spirit of The 700. For multiple reasons, it was a now-or-never situation to be part of such a special business with uber-dedicated patrons in a very special neighborhood. Just after purchasing the bar, Tracy recommended that I connect with Kris Kennedy, the Executive Director of the Northern Liberties Business Improvement District, or BID. When Kris and I first met, she explained the missio
n of the Northern Liberties BID and at the time was a team of one. She has expanded to a small staff of knowledgeable and insightful women who have been consistently hands-on to ultimately help the businesses, residents, and visitors of Northern Liberties.
When we bought The 700, we intentionally continued the business as a turnkey operation while also focusing on need-to-have improvements and invigoration of the business. We were just starting to build momentum and to establish a rhythm when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown was ordered. Without a crystal ball of what was yet to come and being new small business owners, we were nervous about how we were going to keep our business afloat. We sought out information and were happy to find that we didn’t have to go far.
Kris and her team at the Northern Liberties BID are invaluable both tactically and strategically. They proactively help Northern Liberties business owners with, for instance, opportunities for city-sponsored financial support, offering webinars to foster business savviness, and provisions to maximize storefronts such as repositioning trash bins, relocating bike racks, and replacing uneven sidewalks. We continue to appreciate that our BID asks for our input and takes into account our consideration around city projects directly impacting our area.
Kris and her team have also proven to be strong strategic partners. When our business corridor shut down in March 2020, the BID team went into high gear with urgent matters. When the city decided to allow restaurants to open with streetery permits for outdoor dining, the BID was the first to walk us all through the process. What should have been a straightforward application hit a snag when we found out that a small section of 2nd street, one which had received federal assistance for its streetscape, would have to now receive federal approval for the permit. It was a bureaucratic technicality that could not be overcome, and we watched as our fellow restauranters where given permits while we, along with a few others, were left without. We thought this would make or break us; without a streetery permit, our business was in jeopardy. The issue was as important to us as it was to other restaurants on our block. When the BID became aware of the situation, Kris sprang into action, made calls, and looked for assistance. She didn’t wait for days or weeks; she notified the press and had my husband, Sean, on the news that night, which resulted in the councilman-at-large calling us after the 11:00 footage offering his assistance. Her established relationships with these elected officials allowed her to quickly organize a conference call for the next day so as to not lose momentum. Within a day and due to Kris’s sense of urgency, the 700 was officially “streetery”-approved.
In a nutshell, The Northern Liberties BID assists in day-to-day operations and also overseeing strategic improvements to the neighborhood with a distinct perspective on ways to establish synergies amongst the varied businesses.
We were patrons of The 700 at the onset in the late ’90s. It has continued to be a special, warm, and inviting spot. With support from our neighbors, family, friends along with the diligent efforts of the BID, Sean and I have little doubt we can keep the positive vibe going.