By JOHN T. WARD
A former West Side building at the center of a long-running controversy involving booze, noise and angry neighbors could become the home of Red Bank’s first take-out-only organic restaurant.
Plans on file with the borough planning office call for a business called Kitch Organic to take over the former home of Best Liquors, at 75 Leighton Avenue – and bring a clean-slate approach to an eyesore building with some bad karma.
Best Liquors became the subject of an extended legal battle after police filed multiple charges that the shop, owned by Sunny Sharma, had sold alcohol to minors. The charges followed months of complaints by neighbors to the borough council that the store, at the corner of Catherine Street, was a noisy, dirty nuisance.
After a prolonged series of hearings, the council revoked Sharma’s liquor license. Federal authorities later deported Sharma, a native of India. for overstaying his visa. The store operated for a couple of months afterward as a neighborhood grocery, but closed in 2010, and has been vacant ever since.
Kitch Organic would transform the 1,100-square-foot, single-story building into a take-out-and-delivery-only restaurant “catering to the organic community” and “staffed by partners who live locally and walk or bike to work,” according to a description filed with the borough planning office by architect Michael Monroe.
The plan offers a “complete interior and exterior renovation” that would include a small vegetable and herb garden out back and planters along the Catherine Street side of the corner shop.
Inside, the partners propose a “private kitchen” that “prepares, and teaches the preparation of, healthy organic food, proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle,” Monroe says in the filing.
The space might also be used to shoot food-related cooking shows, he says.
Kitch Organic, Monroe says, would be “more attractive and less intensive than the deli.”
The plan needs a use variance. No hearing date has yet been scheduled as the town awaits the payment of $4,7000 in application and escrow fees.
Durso Management Group of Middletown acquired the building in April for $74,500, according to Monmouth County property records. Joe Durso, who filed the plans, could not be reached for comment. Laura Dardi Bruce, an Oakland Street resident involved in the proposed business, told redbankgreen that the partners were not yet ready to talk about the proposed changes.