Hush owners, Shelton apparently reach tentative deal to end lawsuit

A building off Shelton’s Old Bridgeport Avenue where the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission rejected an application for a “speakeasy” to open on the first floor.

A building off Shelton’s Old Bridgeport Avenue where the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission rejected an application for a “speakeasy” to open on the first floor.

Ethan Fry / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — The owners of a proposed speakeasy-themed café on Old Bridgeport Avenue denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission appeared to have reached a tentative settlement with the city in a legal battle that began in 2017.

Hush It Up attorney Jonathan Klein filed a motion June 11 seeking a two-week extension to file briefs in the case in order “to decide whether to approve a tentative settlement which was reached today.”

Klein would not comment on his motion. Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Virginia Harger was not immediately available for comment.

The ruling marks the latest turn in a legal saga that has gone on for nearly three years surrounding the proposed business, which was to be called “Hush.”

When it was first proposed, hopeful business owner Randi Lee England said the bar would operate as a speakeasy — a trend in the bar business hearkening back to the days of Prohibition in the Roaring ’20s — complete with waitresses dressed as “flapper girls.” An initial description including references to “burlesque” performances riled residents who worried that it would be a gentlemen’s club by another name.

The commission denied the business’s application in 2017, citing concerns about traffic and parking while also stating that self-described “speakeasies” are prohibited in Shelton. Klein filed an appeal saying the commission caved to public pressure about the business and used the concerns they cited as a pretext.

After a hearing in March 2019, the judge handed down a 12-page decision reversing the commission’s decision and directing the commission “to review the formula used in determining the requirements for off-street parking.”

The commission replied that 35 off-street parking spaces are needed, but that there were fewer than half of those spaces available. On Sept. 23, 2019, Hiller ruled that that determination was supported by substantial evidence in the record and, on that basis, denied Hush’s appeal.

Klein has stated that the 35 spaces were more than double the amount the commission had previously said would be required at the business — and said the property already had 45 spaces anyway.

England’s attorneys filed an appeal.

With the appeal still in the courts, England applied for a certificate of zoning compliance in December 2019 for a restaurant and bar that would occupy both the upper and lower levels of the building at 303 Old Bridgeport Ave.

In February 2020, Klein said that the certificate of zoning compliance request is “substantially the same” as the special exception granted by the commission for the location in 2011. At that time, the commission gave the approval allowing Hunan Pan to occupy the space.

Klein said the name of the proposed restaurant England wants is yet to be determined.

“Neither the zoning administrator nor the Planning and Zoning Commission has taken action on that (new) application,” said Klein.