UPDATE ON THURSDAY, JULY 24: Last night, the PZC voted to approve the special exception to open a nightclub, with the conditions that were recommended by the Planning department (see below).
Tonight the Planning and Zoning Commission will consider an application for a Special Exception to create a nightclub on the second floor at 106-110 Court Street, between Main Street and DeKoven Drive. The applicant, Ted Tine, is planning to operate a seafood restaurant on the first floor, and is proposing what he calls a "jazz lounge" on the second floor.
Students of our local zoning code will know that "restaurants" are permitted outright in our downtown (the B-1 zone). Some of our downtown restaurants also have a lively bar and have musical entertainment -- but as long as they offer a full menu, they still count as restaurants. But when there is more focus on the alcohol & entertainment than on the food, that becomes a "nightclub". Middletown used to permit nightclubs in the downtown without any restrictions. But, the PZC changed that in 1994, and they now require any new nightclubs to receive a "Special Exception" before they can open. This process allows the Commission to consider the neighboring uses and any potential disturbances before they permit the new business to open (of course, any business that serves alcohol has to receive a state permit as well). Personally, I think this was an excellent step for downtown, and contributed to our development as a restaurant destination, instead of a bar destination, which was more the case in the 1980's (Anyone remember Sal's?)
In this case, the PZC will hear from Mr. Tine that he plans to attract an older, after-dinner crowd that wants to sit and have a glass of wine or cognac while listening to jazz or blues music. He's renovating a building that has been vacant for a long time, and clearly has made a significant investment. I toured the space and he seems to be making nice use of the high exposed ceilings and brick walls. This new use has the support of the Chamber and the Downtown Business District. Mr. Tine apparently has a long history of running similar establishments in Provincetown, Massachusetts, most recently the Euro Island Grill.
Tonight, the PZC may decide to approve or deny the Special Exception, or they can approve it with conditions -- which would allow the new business to move forward while protecting the City's interests at the same time. The conditions which have been proposed by the Planning Department would state that the "Special Exception" approval of the new nightclub would be rescinded if there were violations regarding public health or fire codes, or issues regarding under-age drinking, and that a change in ownership or concept would require a new Special Exception.
I think these conditions are wise, as we try to balance the interests of all the components of downtown, and should not interfere at all with Mr. Tine's plans to open his club. If you'd like to comment or watch the proceedings, come to the Planning and Zoning Meeting at 7 pm tonight at City Hall.