A bump in the road for landlord of Bristol's new sushi restaurant

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/18/19

Bristol’s newest, soon-to-open restaurant, Baba Sushi on Thames Street, has been found to be in violation of the zoning code before it even opens.

“I have determined that the graphics …

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A bump in the road for landlord of Bristol's new sushi restaurant


The landlord for Bristol’s newest, soon-to-open restaurant, Baba Sushi on Thames Street, has been found to be in violation of the zoning code before the restaurant even opens.

“I have determined that the graphics on the front windows of the building at 205 Thames St. are signs per the definition in our zoning ordinance,” wrote Ed Tanner, Bristol’s zoning enforcement officer, in an email. “I have been in contact with the building lessees to remedy the situation. It may go before the zoning board for dimensional relief or the lessee may appeal my determination.”

The contact to which Mr. Tanner referred is a letter to lessee Marianne Bergenholtz, manager of Gladding Shops, LLC, dated Sept. 16. At press time, Ms. Bergenholtz had not yet received the letter.

In an application to the Historic District Commission submitted in the spring of 2019, the proposed signage was identified as a “Chinese Calligraphy Graphic character (which) means ’Ba-Ba’.” In a split vote, the HDC approved the signage, but it is Zoning which has the ultimate say of whether or not a building is in compliance with the local ordinance.

Mr. Tanner outlined the town’s concerns regarding the large graphic design on the windows of the historic building, beginning with the fact that the graphic was installed without first obtaining a sign permit from the town building official.

Further, the graphics are too big, as the maximum size for window signs in the Waterfront zone is 10 percent of the window area.

“These window signs cover nearly 100 percent of the window area in front of your building,” Mr. Tanner’s letter said. “We have discussed this matter at length, both in person and via email, and I understand you consider the graphics you have placed in the windows to be artwork and not signs.

“However, I have determined the the graphics do meet the definition of a sign found in section 28-1 of the Bristol Zoning Ordinance. Specifically, these graphics consist of lettering and logos which are visible to the public from the outside of the building along Thames Street, and they convey a message to the public and intend to advertise, invite, announce or draw attention to directly or indirectly, a use conducted, goods, products, services or facilities available within the building.”

The letter instructs Ms. Bergenholtz that she has until Oct. 1 to comply by removing the graphics, or until Oct. 7 to file an appeal with the Zoning Board, or the town will impose a fine and pursue legal remedies.

“This artwork was hand designed for us by interior architect Anthony Kho for the windows. Chinese calligraphy is an ancient art form. It has nothing to do with the restaurant or its branding,” Ms. Bergenholtz said, when reached for comment.

“The HDC at their meeting two months ago agreed that it was artwork in the windows and did not have us seek a submission for sign approval. Town solicitor Andy Teitz, who was at the meeting to guide the HDC on legality, made no objection. They approved the two restaurant signs that display identity and branding, using the restaurant’s color and logos which will be installed shortly,” she added.

“I’m confident that we can resolve this question amicably with the town.”

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