A Zoning Board hearing on the proposal to raze Chubby’s Waterside Café and replace it with a new sports bar and restaurant catering to family events such as baby showers ended last night without a decision.
The sticking point: parking.
Michael Gilson, the owner of Chubby’s, says his proposed two-story restaurant topped by a pair of apartments covering two more floors wouldn’t increase the footprint of the present building, at 26 West Front Street, and would only marginally increase the parking demand.
He also came in with something that pleasantly surprised at least one member of the board: a letter from the manager of the Globe Court Garage, owned by Riverview Medical Center, saying that the garage has between 200 and 350 empty spaces his customers could use beginning in mid-afternoons most days.
The garage is about 600 feet from Chubby’s, a parking consultant hired by Gilson told the board. Gilson himself said that’s closer to his property than the White Street municipal lot, which twice in the past has been the proposed location for a borough parking garage.
Still, the board wanted more more parking options, more solid commitments.
“I’d like to see something firmer with Riverview guaranteeing a number of spaces” for patrons of the The Bank, as Gilson’s new eatery would be called, board member Kevin Moss said.
Board member Karen Waldman seized on the letter from Riverview as a option that other downtown stores and restaurants might look to as a way to alleviate parking shortages. She encouraged Gilson to validate the parking for customers who use the garage; Gilson said he would do so.
“It might even start a trend in Red Bank where other restaurants and stores start to validate,” Waldman said. “I know it’s a cost for the restaurants, but I hate to see a parking garage sitting there, empty.
Gilson’s proposal would reduce the number of rental apartments on the site from the present three to two. Board vice chair Lauren Nicosia questioned the rationale for having any residences at all on the site. Eliminating them, she suggested, would reduce the parking requirement by four spaces.
“I’d like to see a little reduction in the use,” Nicosia said. “Why not get out of the residential?”
Architect Anthony Busch Jr. responded that smart growth planning encourages residential uses in downtowns, and that the two apartments would enable two families to enjoy spectacular views of the Navesink River, as each unit would have its own north-facing deck.
“To keep people living downtown is something that has a strong argument” in its favor, Busch said. Currently, he said, “people live in this building. They function in town. They have jobs downtown.”
Moreover, said Rich Brodsky, Gilson’s attorney, eliminating the apartments which would have four on-site parking spaces, as required would have an insignificant impact the project’s parking needs.
Moss applauded the reduction in the number of units. But he took the Gilson team of professionals to task for what he suggested was a halfhearted response to the board’s request, at a December hearing, that they do a comprehensive survey of parking options.
Gilson is scheduled to appear before the board again on March 20.
The Bank would be run by the Lyristis brothers, who own Bistro at Red Bank on Broad Street.