A concept drawing of the proposed basement jazz bar. (Rendering by George Fett. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
A food market and jazz bar proposed for downtown Red Bank won praise from the business community and approval by the zoning board Thursday night.
A concept plan for the first-floor food market, above. The third-floor windows seen below would be changed to match those on the second floor. (Rendering by George Fett; photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
The as-yet-unnamed businesses would operate at 21 Broad Street, owned by Rick Stavola and Kimberly Landau through an entity called 17 Broad Street Red Bank LLC. The building has been empty since Agostino antiques vacated seven years ago.
The plan calls for a mix of food vendors on the first floor, said attorney Rick Brodsky.
“Think Chelsea Market, think Eataly,” he told the board. The idea is to “capture a lot of people coming to town before dinner, after dinner” to grab an espresso or crepe, he said.
The building’s large basement would house a jazz club and restaurant, said Brodsky, though he walked back the term “speakeasy” used throughout the application submitted to the planning board last month. Brodsky said he had learned only after filing the paperwork that the term connoted an illegal drinking establishment of the Prohibition era.
“We’re not going to be doing anything illegal here,” he told the board. He said a better description was “retro-style bar.”
The would-be business does not own a liquor license, however, and will operate as a BYO if none can be obtained, said Jack Manousos, who will run the operation.
Manousos, of Hamilton Township, and his partner, Jason Zoracki of Little Silver, opened Proving Ground Waterfront Dining in Highlands last July.
In April, they acquired the liquor license belonging to Red Enterprises, which operated the Belmonte restaurant — and before that, a restaurant simply called Red —at 3 Broad Street. At the same time, a limited liability company called 3-5 Broad St., which is owned by Manousos, according to state records, bought that building for $1.9 million.
Last month, Manousos told redbankgreen he and his partner were not ready to announce plans for 3 Broad. But Stavola confirmed Thursday night that the two projects were unrelated and that the license wouldn’t be used at 21 Broad.
The plan won plaudits from board member Sean Murphy, who said he “loved” it, and Linda Cohen, a borough resident who owns EyeDesign on Broad Street.
“I’ve been hearing so many negative things about buildings that are vacant,” said Cohen. “I hear every day from my customers that they would love to have exciting new things downtown, why are things vacant? And so I think this answers that,” she said.
Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Jim Scavone and Jay Herman, principal in Downtown Investors, also applauded the plan. The board’s approval was unanimous.
• In other board action, the Two River Theater won approval for a plan to renovate the plaza on Edmund Wilson Boulevard in front of its lobby.
Theater managing director Michael Hurst told the board that the existing “pretty drab concrete” area would get additional trees and planting beds, benches, café tables and chairs, plus a pergola for outdoor events.
The approval was unanimous, and the theater abandoned its plan for three-sided signs that was approved in 2016.
• A proposal for a new house on the vacant lot at 16 Leonard Street was postponed to a future date.