By JOHN T. WARD
Downtown Red Bank may soon be home to another microbrewery.
Matawan restaurateur Florin Lupu won zoning board approval Thursday night for his plan to build one on Monmouth Street after volunteering to lop one story off a proposed two-story addition.
Lupu, a building contractor who owns Maloney’s Pub & Grill in Matawan, had proposed tripling the size of 42 Monmouth Street to put four luxury apartments above two commercial uses: 3,000-square-foot craft brewery and a 1,500-square-foot pasta restaurant.
Lupu’s attorney, Rick Brodsky, told the board that the pasta restaurant had backed out of the project, and no replacement tenant had yet been lined up.
The one-story structure, which Lupu bought for $1.2 million in 2017, has been vacant since the departure of Fameabilia poster and souvenir shop 10 years ago.
But in the face of concerns by board members over where the residential tenants would park their cars, Lupu told the board he wasn’t dead-set on two new floors.
“We’d like to put two stories on to be consistent with other buildings downtown,” he told the board. “We didn’t want to take the easy way out.”
But limiting the expansion to one story wouldn’t be a problem, he said.
With that adjustment, the need for one variance vanished, leaving a minor one for a metric known as “floor-area ratio.” The borough limits FAR in the zone to 1.7; the modified plan would put the building at 1.73, down from 2.4 under the original plan, architect Larry Johnson told the board.
No objections were voiced during the public session, though Richard Pepsny, an attorney for Morgan family, owners of the former firehouse just yards away, at 40 White Street, spoke to ensure that the Lupu plan got “equal treatment.”
The Morgans, who bought the former Liberty Hose firehouse from the borough in 2014, won approval two years later to convert the upper floor to apartments. John Coccozza of Little Silver later leased the ground floor for his startup, Ross Brewing Company, but the business has not yet opened.
Board member Anne Torre, who made the approval motion, said Lupu had shown “pretty extraordinary flexibility” in addressing the board’s concerns.
Lupu’s project is also just steps away from Red Tank Brewing, at 77 Monmouth Street, opened by John and Lovina Arcara last October.