Birravino’s proposal for a 1,500-square-foot beer garden, as shown to the left of the existing restaurant in renderings below. (Photo by John T. Ward. Renderings by Michael James Monroe. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
• The borough planning board gave unanimous a OK to Good Karma Café, the only vegan restaurant downtown, to triple in size by leasing vacant retail space next door. Architect Matt Cronin testified that Good Karma, at 17 East Front Street, would break through the common wall into 19 East Front, formerly occupied by Creative Kitchens, giving it room for a total 56 seats, 52 of them in the added space.
Gail Doherty, who owns Good Karma with Tiffany Betts, told the board the expansion would provide the tiny business — now just 912 square feet — room to separate its eat-in and take-out operations, as well as elbow room in the cramped kitchen.
Two nearby business owners spoke in favor of the plan, but raised concerns about parking by Good Karma customers on a private lot, at the corner of Wharf Avenue, that’s reserved for their businesses.
Doherty said she and her employees urge their clients to stay out of the lot, adding, “we don’t even ring people up” on pickup orders until they move their vehicles.
“We don’t want people to park there,” she said, adding that she’d install additional signage asking customers to park elsewhere.
“Out customers are active, healthy people,” she said. “We tell them, ‘it’s a city, you have to walk.'”
One of several variances needed was for a parking deficiency: the restaurant has none, and the expansion would require 31 spaces, according to the borough planning office.
Chris Cole, who owns 17 East Front, has an option to acquire 19 East Front Street, according to Good Karma attorney Rick Brodsky. Board member Barbara Boas urged Cole to paint the raw brick on the second-story west wall of 19.
• Birravino, represented by former Mayor Ed McKenna, also won unanimous approval for its plan for a 1,500-square-foot beer garden, to be created between the existing Riverside Avenue restaurant and a garage on the site. Variances for setbacks, parking other other deficiencies were needed.
The plan calls for a trellised area, surrounded by a fence and greenery, where customers could enjoy drinks and some menu items at 40 outdoor seats, he said. McKenna told the board that the restaurant hadn’t been the subject of a single noise complaint in 30 years, and would continue to wrap up its daily operations by midnight.
Owner Vic Rallo said the plan was created in response to increasing demand by customers for an outdoor option. At his UnDici restaurant in Rumson, he said, “without the outdoor area, we’d be dead. It doesn’t add more people. It’s just that the people are outside instead of inside on nice nights.”
Board member and Councilman Mike Whelan called the addition a “fantastic idea” shown to be popular at the recently remodeled Red Rock Tap + Grill on Wharf Avenue, as well as at bars in Sea Bright and Asbury Park.
Rallo told redbankgreen he expects to open the beer garden in the spring of 2017.
• A hearing on plans to covert 39 East Front Street, the downtown’s fugliest building, to a restaurant, retail stores or offices was postponed to January 18.