NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The owner of a popular downtown restaurant frequented by college students and workers in the city now plans build a new home for the business a couple blocks away and wants to renovate another building to rent out for another restaurant operation.
Celel Bodur, owner of Efes Mediterranean Grill at the corner of Easton Avenue and Somerset Street, wants the city to approve his plans to construct a three-story building at 150 Somerset St. to house the restaurant on the first floor and have apartments for college students on the second and third floors.
Bodur went before the city zoning board this week seeking variances for the project, largely because he wants to use the basement as a storage and food preparation area for the restaurant. He also wants to have a landscaped rear patio for customers, along with 68 seats for diners inside, and balconies for the apartments overlooking the street.
Although most of the orders at the current restaurant are for take-out or delivery of food, there is room inside to accommodate 68 people sitting down to eat, Bodur told the board. This seating, he said, attracts parties on weekends.
Plans for the new building include a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor, to accommodate six people, and an identical apartment on the third floor. Each of the units would have a balcony.
Bodur has owned the property at 150 Somerset St. since 2010, and previously received city approval to move his restaurant to a building that was on that site. However, he told zoning board members that the original building needed extensive repairs and he ultimately had it demolished. Under his original plan, the owner had not intended to sue the basement area as a the food preparation area.
Bodur is also seeking approval for a separate project to construct a three-story structure on a lot at 268 Somerset Street that would be home to another restaurant and two more student apartments. However, he intends to rent out the first floor to another company that would operate a take-out food restaurant.
Hearings on both applications were continued next month.
Easton Avenue is close the Rutgers University Campus, and near off-campus student housing and both Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and St. Peter's University Hospital. Small restaurants and shops line the street near Easton Avenue.
Somerset Street is also home to a variety of stores and shops.