SEA BRIGHT: The owner of Tommy's Coal Fired Pizza, Red Bank, plans to turn the Sandy-destroyed Sea Bright Post Office into a similar bar and restaurant possibly called Tommy's Tavern after getting approval from the borough planning board on March 10.
Tommy Bonfiglio presented plans to the Sea Bright Planning Board, his attorney, engineer and architect explaining the project, which will renovate the building instead of demolishing it to build a new one. The new business is expected to open in time for the summer of 2015.
The bar and restaurant will be on the first floor of the 1,600 square feet footprint. The second floor of the building will be storage. Previously the building had the post office, six total commercial uses and residential space on its second floor. The only use proposed was to operate a business, under the site plan presented.
Residents from the neighboring Nautilus Condominiums brought concerns to the minor site plan presentation, worrying that noise, light, ancillary buildings and outdoor seating, which at some points were 12 feet from residents' homes, would create a quality of life issue.
The restaurant will seat around 195 inside, and have seating outside, in the back of the building, for another 104. Overlooking the river, the plan presents not to use the back for parking, though 135 parking spaces are required for the number of patrons and employees. The attorney for the applicant, Martin McGann, said ample parking exists in the municipal lot across the street, and much of the restaurant's traffic would be from people walking to the restaurant.
The main points of contention with the application were the possibility of outside entertainment. "I thought this was a pizza restaurant, now it's a night club," said Planning Board Vice Chair David Desio.
"Please don't qualify it as that," McGann said, who asked for a recess to discuss with his client the questions and contention the board had with outside entertainment. Questions of decibels, placement of entertainer's performance area, type of entertainment, possible dancing or other activities were all raised.
Bonfiglio said to provide entertainment was part of the broader plan for the property, but would not likely be in place immediately. "I don't know if we'll get to this point," he said. "We have to rehab the building, we have a lot to do to be open for summer."
After the recess, McGann presented an update that said outdoor entertainment was not one of the uses of current site plan. The board attorney explained that should that change, the plans for the change would have to again come before the board to approve that portion.
Other site plan elements discussed were the less than 10-foot wide driveway that leads to the back. The only vehicular traffic for the driveway would be the garbage truck to access the restaurant's Dumpsters, said McGann. The dumpsters, outdoor seating, paved area, landscaping and a walk-in cooler would all be situated in the back. Originally farther away from the building, after residents complained of the proximity and the board members inquired further, the applicant agreed to seek a variance to put the walk-in cooler closer to the restaurant and at another angle.
"It's very important to us to be good neighbors," Bonfiglio said, adding that he plans to landscape the back area appropriately and add buffers that create better aesthetics. "We don't want to do anything the borough prohibits," referring to loud music past 10 p.m., which is prohibited in Sea Bright.
"Please don't think we are not in favor of your application," said Councilman Marc Leckstein. "We also have to take into account the whole town, the residents, and possible quality of life issues."
The building at 1030 Ocean Avenue, shuttered since Hurricane Sandy, had a previous proposal for hotel space, then office space.