Owner of denied Shelton speakeasy withdraws suits against city

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 owner of a proposed speakeasy-themed café on Old Bridgeport Avenue whose proposal was denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission has withdrawn two lawsuits against the city.

Hush It Up attorney Jonathan Klein confirmed Tuesday that his client, Randi Lee England, withdrew an appeal of a judge’s ruling, supporting the P&Z denial of the application in 2017. Court records also state that England has also withdrawn a second suit filed earlier this year against Zoning Administrator Alex Rossetti, Zoning Enforcement Officer Josh O’Neill and the commission.

The basis of second 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 the upper and lower levels of a building at 303 Old Bridgeport Ave.

“A combination of COVID-19's impact on the restaurant sector of the economy and actions taken by the landlord, which seriously degraded Hush It Up LLC's ability to use the building made it no longer worthwhile to pursue the appeal,” Klein told Hearst Connecticut Media.

The restaurant and bar, proposed by England as a new business unrelated to her 2017 business request that was denied by Planning and Zoning, has since been withdrawn from Planning and Zoning. Unlike her initial 1920s-themed plan, the latest proposal would have comprised space as a business already 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, Hush requested a certificate of zoning compliance that, Klein said, is “substantially the same” as the special exception granted by the commission in 2011.

The new suit was brought just as Hush It Up LLC appeared to have reached a tentative settlement with the city in a legal battle that began in 2017 when the commission denied the original plans over parking, traffic and the nature of the business. No such deal ever materialized.

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 it would be a gentleman’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. The appeal was thought to be in the process of being settled, according to papers filed in court and confirmed by Klein at the time.