2013-09-26 / Front Page

Zoning OKs alcohol at Spinnakers

Matter now goes to council for approval
By Margo Sullivan

Spinnakers, the ice-cream shop and restaurant at 3 Ferry Wharf, cleared another hurdle Tuesday night in its bid to add wine and beer to the menu.

The Zoning Board of Review voted 4-1 on Sept. 24 to grant a special-use permit and parking variance, but with conditions that included no alcohol could be served on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.

Board member David Nardolillo opposed the request.

Attorney John Murphy represented Lucky Ridge LLC, which does business as Spinnakers Café. He told the Zoning Board that the Town Council will ultimately decide whether the café obtains a liquor license. The special-use permit was a preliminary step but was not definitive.

Also, because the special-use permit is effectively a new use, Spinnakers will also have to go before the sewer and water commissioners to satisfy that board’s requirements.

Zoning Officer Fred Brown explained the café had to apply for a parking variance because it had been operating under a grandfather clause and would lose its status if it gained the special-use permit. Under the grandfathering, Spin- nakers was approved for 29 seats, but the change of use meant owner Michael Ridge effectively had to start over to satisfy the parking regulations. Murphy said Spinnakers now has 68 seats inside and outside the restaurant, but only has three parking spaces in front of the restaurant. Nine spaces were required per the zoning ordinance.

Murphy asked the Zoning Board for relief for the remaining six parking spaces.

Chairman Thomas Ginnerty said he did not have a problem with the parking variance or with serving wine and beer. But initially he did see a public safety problem with serving alcohol on the boardwalk outside the restaurant.

“It isn’t safe,” he said.

Ginnerty said there’s no fence around the boardwalk for safety.

Ridge, who has owned Spinnakers for nine years, testified he had anticipated the safety issue.

“We have a couple of ideas we would entertain,” he said. “An important one is signage. It seems like a small thing, but it is important.”

Ridge said a sign could be posted in the area outside the café along the dock owned by Conanicut Marine to warn people.

“There’s also the possibility of adding some gateway system,” he said.

“I’d like to see something more specific than that,” Ginnerty said.

At that point, Murphy asked Ginnerty if he would drop his objection if Ridge agreed to conditions.

“Are you prepared to agree to a condition that a customer not be allowed to exit with drinks?” Murphy asked.

“I don’t know,” Ginnerty responded.

He still thought there was a safety problem. “There’s no fence,” Ginnerty said.

He went on to explain he wanted to see a fence or a guard rail.

Asked for his opinion, Brown replied he did see a problem with the application but because of the lack of handicap access. Brown said the Zoning Board has required other restaurants to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and Spinnakers should be no different than any other eatery.

Ginnerty asked Wayne Brochu, the town’s legal counsel, for an opinion about the accessibility issue. Brochu said he had not researched the specific question, but Murphy said the matter would come into play if the restaurant applied for a building permit.

Ridge indicated he does not intend to remodel the interior of the restaurant or build a bar. The beer and wine will be served from a cooler behind the counter, he said. The decision to start serving wine and beer had been “customer driven,” he said. According to Ridge, ice-cream sales have been on the rise, but food now accounts for more than half his business.

“As Spinnakers has continued to grow over the course of the years, it has become more than just an ice-cream shop,” he said.

Spinnakers did introduce a policy as an experiment where customers could bring their own bottle. Ridge wanted to see how the business would be impacted. Because it was successful, he decided to look into obtaining a license to serve beer and wine.

Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marine, spoke in favor of Spinnakers’ expansion plans, as did Bob Bailey of Lila Delman Real Estate and former restaurant proprietor John Brittain. Harbormaster Sam Paterson spoke against the application because of parking congestion.

Ultimately, the Zoning Board approved the requests with the Planning Commission’s recommendations. The conditions are:

• No alcohol can be served in the outdoor area at the front of the restaurant;

• The café must relinquish its bring-your-own-bottle policy;

• Spinnakers’ outdoor section should be “clearly defined, marked and strictly enforced” as an alcohol free area.

In addition, the Zoning Board specified no alcohol could be served after 10 p.m.; no outdoor music would be allowed; customers would be asked to leave by going through the restaurant and not out on the dock; a rail would be installed along the Conanicut Marine section of the dock; and some work should be done along the boardwalk to narrow the path a short distance away from Spinnakers.

In other business, the Zoning Board unanimously approved an administrative subdivision for two nonconforming lots off Watson Avenue. The request of Robert Nunes called for moving a lot line a small distance to eliminate a boundary that bisected one of the existing houses, Murphy said.

“It’s the only way to separate these lots,” Nunes said. “These are non-conforming lots to begin with, and one is going to be less conforming,” if the subdivision was allowed, he said. “But having a lot line bisect the house is egregious.”

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