Hush owners files second suit against P&Z

Shelton City Hall.

Shelton City Hall.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — The owners of a proposed speakeasy-themed café on Old Bridgeport Avenue whose proposal was denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission have filed a second suit against the city.

Hush It Up attorney Jonathan Klein confirmed last week that his client, Randi Lee England, filed suit on April 28 against Zoning Administrator Alex Rossetti, Zoning Enforcement Officer Josh O’Neill and the commission.

The basis of the suit is that the commission and its members did not take action on a request for a certificate of zoning compliance in December 2019 for a restaurant and bar that would occupy both the upper and lower levels of a building at 303 Old Bridgeport Ave.

The restaurant and bar, proposed by Randi Lee England as a new business unrelated to her 2017 business request that was denied by Planning and Zoning, has not been given a formal name, paperwork shows. Unlike her initial 1920s-themed plan, it would take up a space as a business that already was approved as compliant with local zoning regulations.

The space has housed restaurants in the past. In 2011, the commission gave its approval to a special exemption so Hunan Pan could occupy the space. In February 2020, Hush requested a certificate of zoning compliance that, Klein said, is “substantially the same” as the special exception granted by the commission in 2011.

“Neither the zoning administrator nor the Planning and Zoning Commission has taken action on that (new) application,” said Klein on June 24, adding that he attempted to reach out several times for answers on the application’s status.

Rossetti and commission Chair Virginia Harger both said they were not at liberty to comment on the suit.

The suit states that zoning staff has a “legal duty” to act on the application or move it to the commission for a final decision.

The new suit was brought just as Hush It Up LLC appears to have reached a tentative settlement with the city in a legal battle that began in 2017 when the commission denied the original business’s plans over parking, traffic and the nature of the business.

When it was first proposed, England said the bar, named “Hush,” would operate as a speakeasy themed cafe — 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.

Hush It Up LLC appealed the denial; a judge reversed the decision in 2019 and ordered the commission to review its parking regulations. The commission presented its data on the number of parking spaces needed and won its case. The appeal was overturned.

England’s attorneys filed an appeal of that decision, saying the data was inaccurate. It is that appeal that may be in the process of being settled, according to papers filed in court and confirmed by Klein.

On June 11, Klein filed a motion 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.”

Corporation Counsel Fran Teodosio, during the commission’s executive session Wednesday, which was inadvertently broadcast live, said that there is no such agreement. Teodosio said “any representation that there is an agreement is false.”

Klein said Thursday he was “not at liberty to discuss the details” of any tentative settlement.