By JOHN T. WARD
The fate of a microbrewery proposed for a long-vacant storefront in downtown Red Bank appeared cloudy Thursday night.
The hangup? The two floors of apartments the landlord wants to add to the one-story building.
A rendering of the proposed two-story addition to 42 Monmouth Street; the image does not include recent minor changes. Below, zoning board member Sean Murphy at Thursday’s hearing. (Rendering by Larry C. Johnson; photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.).
The building’s new owner, Phoenix of Matawan Inc., owned by Florin Lupu, is seeking a use variance to convert the existing retail space to two tenant spaces: a microbrewery and a takeout pasta restaurant.
But Phoenix also wants to add two stories of residential space, containing a total four apartments, to the building. All four units would be two stories in height and contain two bedrooms.
Right out of the gate, zoning board member Sean Murphy made it clear to Lupu’s lawyer, Rick Brodsky, that the addition was problematic, in that it would worsen a shortage of parking downtown.
“I just want to give you a heads-up: you’re going to have a hard sale with me,” Murphy said.
It’s one thing for a landlord with a 100-year-old building wishing to convert upper-floor space to apartments because they can’t be rented to office tenants, Murphy said.
“What you’re asking is totally different,” Murphy said. “You want to add to the parking burden.”
The borough planning office determined that 17 parking spaces would be needed to serve the brewery and restaurant, and another 8 would be needed for apartment tenants. Only 10 spots are proposed onsite, and four of them are to be dedicated to residential tenants.
Still, the property, which backs up against the White Street municipal parking lot, has an “abundance” of parking available nearby, said Lupu’s planner, James Kennedy.
Brodsky also argued that Lupu’s proposal would put less pressure on downtown parking than a 162-seat restaurant at the same address that won planning board approval in 2013, under a prior ownership, but was never built.
The hearing is scheduled to resume October 18.
Meantime, local beer aficionados are awaiting the start of operations at three other microbreweries in town, at least one of which appears imminent:
• Adam Rechnitz’s Triumph Brewing Company, a large-scale restaurant and beermaking operation in the West Side Lofts building on Bridge Avenue. Rechnitz has been and remains famously mum about the opening date for his restaurant, which has been under construction for several years.
• Red Tank Brewing, at 77 Monmouth Street, owned by photographers Lovina and John Arcara. The business may open as early as next month, John Arcara told redbankgreen Thursday.
• Ross Brewing Company, headed by Little Silver resident John Cocozza, in the former Liberty Hose firehouse at 40 White Street. Cocozza did not respond to an inquiry about the status of the conversion project.