RED BANK: CHAR TO SEEK PARKING VARIANCE

char-exteriorArchitect’s drawings of the proposed Char facade include a wavy awning and two-story windows. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

char-ext-2The restaurant that plans to fill the downtown Red Bank space last used by Ashes Cigar Bar took several key steps toward fruition in the recent weeks.

Still, Char Steakhouse may yet need zoning variances before it can begin what’s expected to be an expensive renovation of the prominent structure, on the southeast corner of Broad and Mechanic streets.

According to borough planning and zoning director Donna Smith Barr, the property is already the beneficiary of variances granted some 15 or so years ago for Ashes.

Those variances required the restaurant, which failed in 2010, to buy yearly permits for 20 spaces in municipal lots and provide another 24 spaces leased from a nearby property owner.

Char, however, has signaled its intent to seek new variances, she said.

It’s unclear if Char’s owners believe they might benefit from a moratorium in place through the end of the year that absolves new businesses with parking deficiencies from having to pay into the town’s parking fund. Jason Frushschein, a lawyer for Char, could not be reached for immediate comment Monday.

No formal application for variances has yet been filed. But Char filed architectural renderings and other documents related to the plan earlier this month, and representatives of Char met with Smith Barr Monday morning, she said.

A schematic drawing indicates the restaurant will have 229 indoor dining chairs over three floors, but another document states that the third floor, which is zoned for residential use, will remain unchanged.

No official calculation for the number of parking spaces that would be needed has yet been done.