HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Progress towards a resolution for “al fresco dining experience” at the Heights Bar and Grill was made at the Hasbrouck Heights Zoning Board of Adjustment Thursday night at Hasbrouck Heights Borough Hall
The owners of Heights Bar & Grill, Ross Barrett LLC, had brought to the board a request for three variances to the Borough Code and left with an agreement that could lead to the Zoning Board of Adjustment granting approval for the establishment of outdoor dining at the establishment.
Heights Bar & Grill had been previously denied a permit based off of their initial submission to the town. The town initially had ruled against the plan, stating that the plan had the gave putting barriers and planters seven feet from the front of Heights Bar & Grill, which exceeded the 50% setback requirement.
During testimony from Jerry Eben, the planner brought in by Ross Barrett LLC, argued that the statute had been misinterpreted. The ruling was based on the Borough measuring the setback amount to the first structure away from the building. However the statute states that the measurement should be to curb.
As a result, technically, the plans coming out seven feet from the building, were in compliance since the curb was 15 feet from the premises. Borough statue says to the curb, and the presence of a street pole should not have been from where the measurement was taken.
The owners were also requesting a variance to leave the tables and chairs out overnight. They explained that the tables would be wrought iron, and quite heavy, and bringing the furniture inside each night would be a burden.
During testimony, the board expressed several concerns, that the space on the sidewalk would be too narrow, and made several suggestions to the applicants. Andrew Demicco, who with his brother Joel are the owners of Heights Bar & Grill, discussed many different options on how to give the Zoning Board the relief that they sought.
With the changes made, the plans currently submitted will be have to be redrawn.
The third variance would requested would be to allow, via the zoning rules, alcohol to be served outside the premises.
Demicco noted that several of the eating establishments in town are “BYOB” (Bring your own Bottle establishments, and have outdoor eating. But, since it is “BYOB” they are not subject to the zoning ordinance.
Before the council voted on the request for the variances, neighbor Gary Focarino spoke in opposition of the request.
While acknowledging that the Demiccos had made many improvements to Heights Bar & Grill since they had purchased the property, he did not feel that was an appropriate request.
He cited concerns over serving alcohol outside on the Boulevard, noting that children routinely walk the Boulevard on their way to school, as well as the amount of sidewalk remaining would be too narrow for two people to walk at the same time. He also noted that the width of the sidewalk would make it difficult for a parent pushing a child in a stroller to pass another pedestrian.
Focarino also noted that this would be an obstruction to people on bikes, the Hasbrouck Heights cross country team, which runs down the Boulevard. He noted a concern of having the cross-country runners going into the street to get around the gates that would enclose the area, creating a safety issue.
He also noted that the outside tables would create even more noise than already comes from the Bar, as well as people smoking and/or vaping outside.
As part of his statement he also noted that many of the outdoor seating areas use umbrellas that would cause a hazard to anyone over six feet walking down the Boulevard.
The zoning board voted to approve the crafting of a resolution that would incorporate all the requested changes to the original plans on a new plan to be submitted at the next meeting. Additionally, approval would be contingent on the following: (to which was agreed to by Heights Bar & Grill)
The outdoor seating area would close at 10:30 pm
There would be no smoking or vaping allowed
There would be no umbrellas
Entrance to the area would only be allowed via the restaurant (an exception would be egress in case of emergency and entrance via the gate for handicapped patrons according to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
It was noted that there would still be the requirement to get approvals from the Hasbrouck Heights Council and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
No additional outdoor lightning to be afixed to the building. (Tables would have small candles for light)
The next meeting of the Hasbrouck Heights Land Use Board of Adjustment is July 25 at 7:30 pm
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