RED BANK: PAZZO FRIDGE GETS COOL WELCOME

pazzo 050216 1An illegal expansion into a breezeway beside Pazzo Restaurant drew criticism, but won planning board approval. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A Red Bank restaurant’s request for permission to keep an already-built extension drew pointed criticism from borough planning board members Monday night.

“I hate it,” board vice chairman Dan Mancuso told an owner of Pazzo Restaurant.

rbpb 050216Vice chairman Dan Mancuso consults with planning director Glenn Carter as board members Juanita Lewis and Lou DiMento look on Monday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

The restaurant, located on the ground floor at Red Bank Corporate Plaza, at 141 West Front Street, was seeking after-the-fact OK for a nearly 400-square-foot addition created several years ago on the west side of the restaurant, in a breezeway that connects to a parking garage.

The addition, under an awning and sided in canvas, encloses a walk-in refrigerator and holds other restaurant supplies, lawyer Rick Brodsky told the board. He said his clients had recently been “advised” by borough inspectors that it was in violation of the original 2009 site plan approval, and would have to be equipped with fire sprinklers in the event town approval was granted.

Partner Rich Dell’Anno told the board the addition was created after a former partner in the business “lied to us” and said it had borough approval.

Variances for setbacks were needed for the addition, which is nearly 11 feet wide and 38 feet long, taking up more than half the width of the breezeway. Mancuso said the addition undermined one of the objectives of the approval: to create a separation between the office and the garage with clear passage from West Front Street to Wall Street.

Board member Barbara Boas asked Dell’Anno what would happen if the board rejected the request.

“We’d have to struggle functionally, because that walk-in is full,” he said.

But “you chose to expand” without prior permission from local government, Mancuso told Dell’Anno, “and now you’re making it our problem. That doesn’t make it our problem.”

Brodsky replied that Pazzo “put a lot of money into their space and into this town… That restaurant add vitality to this building and the area.”

“I agree with you 100 percent,” Mancuso said. “That’s why we approved it to be what it is.”

Board member Lou DiMento said he was “sympathetic” to Pazzo, “but in light of the fact it was done illegally, I think you should try to make it a little more palatable. We’re not happy it was done in the way it was done.”

In the end, Dell’Anno agreed to relocate a bike rack from the breezeway and to dress up the addition with planters similar to the restaurant’s approved seating addition on the sidewalk out front.

Mancuso voted no on the motion, he said, “in an effort to continually remind people that they shouldn’t build something and then come to us for approval.”

• A hearing on a plan to convert a retail space at 132 Broad Street to a sushi restaurant called Red Lantern was postponed again, to May 16, because only four board members who were present at a January hearing on the plan were also present Monday night, whereas five were needed to vote, board attorney Mike Leckstein said.