NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The borough council approved the sale of its final liquor license to Don Burkitt, doing business as AlleyCat, for a gastro pub he plans to open. The gastro pub will eventually be located in what is currently Dim Sum Villa.
During a special meeting of the council on June 19, the council heard testimony from Burkitt on why his bid for the remaining consumption liquor license in the borough should be accepted. A 13-year resident of the borough, Burkitt’s complete testimony can be seen on newprov.org, under videos.
Burkitt, a former banker, said he was “a restructuring guy” who would take failing businesses and turn them around. In some cases, those businesses were restaurants and, “I actually operated these restaurants. What is gratifying about that work is you get your hands dirty,” Burkitt said.
During his testimony, he said, he conducted ground-level research in the borough, talked to people and discovered an “unmet need” in town. That “need” is for a place where youth teams can go after their final game, or families can go after a concert, or clubs can meet without leaving town. He found they go out of town, to the Stirling Hotel, Delicious Heights, Chimney Rock and other non-chain restaurants. He said he looked for a place in the borough for two years which would serve as a gathering place for residents, “Ultimately, I was approached” by the landlord of the Village Shopping Center, and “I’ve signed a lease for 1260 Springfield Ave., #20.” The site was “formerly Chen’s” and is now “Dim Sum Villa.”
He called the site, “an important downtown location,” which will serve as a gateway business that is “uniquely suited for a fun, casual and moderately priced family restaurant.” He told the council the lease runs for 10 years and is not a sublease. It will need to be approved by Acme which, as the anchor store, has approval rights.
Burkitt said he envisions there will be the opportunity for outdoor dining along each side of the main entrance. He expects to install better lighting, change the outside façade and reconfigure the HVAC, although the plans for that are not finalized. The former location of Chen's sushi bar, to the left of the entrance, will be turned into a bar, a wall will be removed between the bar and what was once a small, private dining room to make one room.
Seating will be flexible in the main dining room to the right of the entrance, and the secondary dining room will make a good place for a private dining room or meeting area, he said.
Council members had some concern about the situation at Dim Sum Villa, and Burkitt’s attorney said, “We understand from the landlord’s attorney that there has been a judgment entered but they haven’t executed it yet.” TAPinto could not reach the owner of Dim Sum Villa for comment prior to publication of the article.
Councilman Michael Gennaro asked what Burkitt bid for the license.
Burkitt said he offered $130,000 for the license, which he based on prices paid for the other three licenses.
A few residents who attended the meeting spoke up in favor of the gastro pub. Two of them said they currently need to leave town to have dinner or to meet someone for drinks, especially when with the family. No one spoke against the council accepting the bid for that location.
After minimal discussion, the council voted unanimously in favor of selling the license, with the provision that the license is specifically for that location. If there were to be a change in location, Burkitt would have to return to get approval for a new site. The gastro pub does not yet have a name. Burkitt said he is looking for a name that reflects the history of the borough.
After the meeting, Burkitt posted the following on the New Providence Community Forum on Facebook:
"New Providence Families - last night was an enormous night for me and I expect for our community too.
With the final vote of ‘yes’ provided by our Council to bring a Gastro Pub to our town, we are on our way to building a unique and meaningful option for us to gather as a community of friends and family in our own backyard. I want to thank so many of you, literally hundreds of residents and businesses, that have provided insight, ideas, and support as to what our town needs and wants. And without question, I want to thank our town council for their thoughtful consideration and stewardship regarding an asset of the town that really is meant to be shared and maximized for our collective benefit.”