Owners of proposed speakeasy change restaurant plans while still appealing denial
SHELTON — Owners of a proposed speakeasy on Old Bridgeport Avenue which was rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission, have now submitted plans for a restaurant in that same location.
Hush It Up applicant Randi Lee England applied for a certificate of zoning compliance in December for a restaurant and bar that would occupy both the upper and lower levels of the building at 303 Old Bridgeport Ave.
England’s request comes as her attorneys have filed an appeal of a judge’s 2017 ruling upholding the Planning and Zoning Commission’s denial of the speakeasy, which would have only occupied the first-floor space.
Attorney Jonathan 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 is yet to be determined.
“Neither the zoning administrator nor the Planning and Zoning Commission has taken action on that (new) application,” said Klein.
The ruling marks the latest turn in a legal saga that has gone on for more than two years surrounding the proposed business, which was to be called “Hush.”
England has 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, 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, 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.