Construction for a theater and rooftop deck at Phil’s Restaurant on Main Street restarted on Wednesday after the Zoning Board of Review granted a liquor service permit and parking variance to allow renovations.
It took two meetings, a special work session, many concessions and hours of deliberations, but Phil’s Restaurant owners Carl and Kenneth Tetzner heard a favorable verdict during a special meeting on Tuesday night.
“We’re relieved,” said Kenneth after the board handed down the decision. “We’re relieved and excited.”
In series of four special-use approvals, the Tetzners won parking variances that will allow them to expand liquor service to a 90-seat performance hall — which will become the home of the Contemporary Theater Company — and a 44-seat rooftop deck at their property located at 323 Main St.
South Kingstown-based Haynes Construction will have renovations for both projects completed by summer’s start, Kenneth said after the meeting. The rooftop deck will feature an open-air atmosphere and be open until 11 p.m. seasonally. No live entertainment will be allowed.
The parking problem was the issue of widest contention at the first hearing on Jan 18. The Tetzners needed a 19-space variance before they could start construction. The property provides for 23 of the required 42 spaces.
Parking was an exception the Zoning Board was hesitant to grant after Wayne Cahoone, who owns several Main Street properties including The Glass Station and Brickley’s Ice Cream, testified at the first hearing that parking was already tight in the downtown area.
The Tetzners and their partners from the Contemporary Theater Company returned on Feb. 15 with 351 spaces donated by area businesses because they liked the idea of more people on Main Street.
“Anytime you bring an event downtown — anything like that — every business profits because there is more foot traffic,” said Kenneth at the first meeting on Jan. 18.
And it was that promise of more foot traffic that ultimately tipped the balance in favor of the Tetzner’s plan on Tuesday. After the public hearing was continued to Feb. 15, area businesses crowded the Town Hall and dozens touted green signs that urged the board to “vote yes.”
“Other businesses were all in favor of more people downtown,” said Ernest D. George, chairman, who became the single dissenting vote in granting approval for a variance and special use permit to for the rooftop deck portion of the application.
“Yes, and aren’t we all after that same thing,” agreed Igor Runge, board member.
The board held off its decision for almost two hours during its special work session on Tuesday, however, as members discussed how a rooftop deck would be lit. In the end, members nixed a canopy for the deck, but granted the rooftop expansion 4-1, and after the meeting Kenneth promised his lighting choices would be tasteful.
“Lighting will be in good taste, it’s all going to be in good taste, and we have no plan for a canopy,” said Kenneth.
George disagreed with other board members on the impact the rooftop deck would have on the general character of the neighborhood, despite
provisions added delineating closing times and entertainment.
“We have already granted a variance for the theater on the same lot and to grant another for this lot doesn’t amount to anything other than a mere inconvenience,” said George as the board voted to approve a parking
variance allowing liquor service to the 44-seat rooftop deck.