On Tuesday, after months of meetings, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously 5-0 to approve an application for a large Greek Restaurant, Kyma Greenwich, with over 200 seats, plus a bakery and retail space in the buildings formerly occupied by the New York Sports Club and Sofia’s Costume Shop.
Due to the size of the restaurant it was likened by P&Z to a cruise ship in Greenwich Harbor.
The restaurant will be just off Greenwich Avenue where the largest restaurant is Ginger Man with about 150 seats.
Over the months there was discussion about whether the ground floor of the building was technically on Lewis Street or Liberty Way.
That was relevant because certain uses aren’t allowed on ground floors, and certain uses aren’t allowed on second floors.
Ultimately the Zoning Enforcement Officer determined the ground floor was on Lewis Street and Liberty Way was below ground.
Of note was that the sports club was a non-conforming use, and a P&Z rule of thumb is not to make a new use more non-conforming.
“You’re taking the gym and making something less detrimental to the neighborhood,” said P&Z director Katie DeLuca on Tuesday night.
Other concerns were traffic congestion and whether the large restaurant would monopolize parking in the municipal parking lot that is often full. But because the site is also between the front and rear building lines, it is exempt from parking requirements.
Other restaurant owners testified that their patrons are already often late for reservations because they can’t find a parking space.
The commission said in general the nearby municipal lots are busiest Monday through Friday at lunch time.
Those concerns ultimately led the commission to condition their approval with caps on seating as follows:
125 max Lunch Monday-Friday
150 max Lunch on Saturday and Sunday
200 max at Dinner Monday – Sunday
75 max for special events
“I think we’re letting them open at a level that is economically sustainable for them,” said P&Z chair Margarita Alban. “As soon as they know how it’s playing out, we say in an X amount of time, come back in and we’ll talk about expanding it, if it’s going okay.”
Alban said traffic, congestion and impacts on surrounding businesses should be monitored before a return with a request for more seating.
“We all spend enough time downtown that if it’s really bad news everybody’s going to know,” she added. “I’ve been tracking the hot restaurants that have opened recently on the Avenue – within 2 weeks of opening, the ones that are much acclaimed and popular – you can’t get a reservation. We’ll know instantly when they open how they’re doing.”
“Our concern is how does it affect other businesses that are already there and have gotten through Covid?” Alban asked. “That’s our job.”
“We’re not being arbitrary. We have picked approximately a 10% reduction, roughly, that we think will give us sufficient flexibility,” Alban said. “This isn’t a free market situation in that you have a limited resource. You have a one way street, old neighborhood. Lots of restaurants and lots going on.”
Of note was the applicant secured an arrangement with an office building at 67 Mason Street to lease 25 surface parking spots there in the evening.
That arrangement became a condition of approval.
The commission had for months pushed the applicant to do a soft opening, but the response was reluctant given they said $6 million was being invested in the restaurant.
The caps on seating were something of a compromise as the applicant had requested more seating.
The commission approved the application, with the seating caps, and told the applicant to see how it goes and possibly return with a request to increase seating.
Voting were P&Z commissioners chair Margarita Alban, Nick Macri, Peter Lowe, Arn Welles and Peter Levy.
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