Variance woes leave an Italian restaurant planned for Bayside in limbo

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Plans for a new Italian restaurant in Bayside were put on ice by Community Board 11 at its meeting Monday.

The advisory body voted unanimously to table a variance permitting the operation of a new eatery at 189-11 Northern Blvd., which was formerly a Greek restaurant known as Sala. According to board members, an Italian fusion restaurant is planned for the same location, but a lack of communication with the board over the variance has hampered the process.

“We don’t have a motion because we don’t have any information,” said Board Chairperson Eileen Hader, noting that a zoning committee meeting on Jan. 20 had raised concerns to representatives of Rothkrug Rothkrug & Spector —the law firm representing the potential developer—about noise, parking and space. However, board members had received no further information since that time.

The potential restaurateur was present at the meeting, but offered little explanation for his plans. The restaurant, he said, will “probably” serve Italian, but it is unclear what the restaurant will look like, how many people it will seat, or what kind of alcohol it will serve.

Todd Dale, an attorney from Rothkrug, was also present, and attempted to assure board members that the new establishment would not disturb locals.

Yet board members noted that in the past, residents had been promised one thing and received another.

When the variance was initially established in 2005, residents were told that the establishment would be a coffee shop and bakery. Instead, Sala opened, and its owners proceeded to flout local laws by creating an illegal patio in the rear of the building where patrons’ noisiness and drinking was a major disturbance.

Additionally, Sala provided no space for parking, which forced residents to compete with patrons for spaces.

Henry Euler, vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, announced that his association would oppose the motion until assurances could be made about noise, traffic and parking.

“Our civic association has no objection to a restaurant operating on the site,” he said, “However, they must be good neighbors.”

Given the overwhelmingly vague nature of the project, as well as the structure’s history of usage, the board had no problem shutting down the would-be restaurateur.

“I for one, am uncomfortable approving this when there’s so little information about it,” said Hader, before the unanimous vote to table the renewal. “We need facts.”

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