Story by Jennifer O’Connor
To squelch rumors and answer questions and concerns of residents affected by a proposal to build a restaurant in a vacant lot at 16 Elm St. in the Village of Warwick, John Christison, owner of Yesterdays restaurant, held an informational session on Sat., May 13 at his establishment.
Several people have written letters to the editor published in the Warwick Valley Dispatch and the Warwick Advertiser referencing the proposal as a “beer garden.” Christison told those in attendance that a “beer garden” is a place where there is self-service and people sit outside at picnic tables to drink beer, and that this is not what he is proposing.
Christison, who has owned and operated Yesterdays restaurant for 32 years at 29 Main St., said his business has outgrown its current space and location. At the new building Christison said he will keep the same quaintness of Yesterdays as well as table service. The plan includes a banquet room, dining and bar area, bathrooms, covered porch and a patio. The patio and covered porch will have a total of 36 seats. The total capacity, that includes outdoor and indoor seating, is 202.
Christison told those in attendance that he has no intention of having a late night crowd on the patio and porch, nor will he have live music outside the facility. The site plan proposal before the Village of Warwick Planning Board is to construct a 3,600 sq. ft. restaurant.
The property, currently owned by Frank Petrucci, Lynn Crane and Glenn Petrucci, is zoned light industrial. Besides an eating and drinking establishment, the zoning code allows other types of businesses such as a gasoline service station, automobile sales and service, car wash, hotels/motels, public utility facilities, manufacturing/assembly/finishing, health club, medical offices, retail stores, theatre/cinemas, indoor recreation such as batting cages, and business/professional/government offices, etc.
Christison’s purchase of the property is contingent upon him receiving approval for the project. If approved, the restaurant would be located toward the back right portion of the lot. The property line is situated along the backyards of several residents on West St. and Van Buren St. The site plan shows that the two closest points from the building itself would be about 52 ft. from the backyard of a resident on Van Buren St. and about 45 ft. from the backyard of a resident on West St.
An issue for residents, according to Christison, is that some of them have encroached onto the property by putting wood, debris and even a shed on the lot that they do not own.
Ken and Eleanor Bowman, who reside on Van Buren St. and attended the session, said they have a verbal agreement with the owner of the lot allowing them to put their shed on the property as long as they “keep it neat and clean.” They even maintain a flower bed on the lot.
“I don’t want to lose my shed,” said Ken Bowman.
Christison replied, “I don’t want you to lose your shed. I am willing to work it out to allow you permission to keep the shed on the property. I don’t have a problem putting the fence behind the shed.”
Christison stated that he is willing to make reasonable accommodations and to work with neighbors. Christison, along with his attorney, John Cappello, and engineer, Ross Winglovitz, went over the plans in which they discussed landscaping and the location of a six foot fence.
A woman who attended the session expressed concerns about the smell coming from the dumpster and suggested that it be placed further away from those who reside on Van Buren St. Questions about lighting were also addressed. The walkway will have pedestal lights and there will be mounted, shielded ornamental fixtures on motion sensors around the building.
“We can talk about this,” said Peg Bowes to Christison, “but regardless, it’s going to make an impact on us, so can you tell us more about your operation?”
“I have a great rapport with the police department,” responded Christison. “They never come here for noise or for anything else. There are ways to control customers without having a doorman. If you come in here on any given night my clientele are eating at the bar. My clientele is the older clientele. When the younger clientele come in here I tell them ‘make this your first stop and not your last.’”
Christison also said that parking has always been an issue but at the new location there will be plenty of parking with 45 spaces in a paved lot and 61 spaces in a land banked area. According to the “general notes” on the site plan, the hours of operation would be Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The final decision about the site plan will be made by the Village Planning Board after a public hearing is held in which residents may make comments. The public hearing on this application has not yet been scheduled. Legal notices of public hearings held by the planning board are published in the Warwick Valley Dispatch. To view the site plan visit the planning department in Village Hall, located at 77 Main St., Warwick.