Chomp Kitchen and Drinks got one step closer to receiving all necessary approvals to open their new flagship restaurant at 279 Water St. on Monday night.
Chomp Kitchen and Drinks got one step closer to receiving all necessary approvals to open their new flagship restaurant at 279 Water St. on Monday night, receiving approval during a special meeting of the Warren Planning Board to move a dumpster location and implement a shared parking plan with two neighboring businesses that also incorporates some creative parking options located off-site.
Their final step before being able to finish renovations and open this spring, as owner Sam Glynn has previously said was the goal, is to receive approval from the Zoning Board for the same requests on Wednesday night.
The meeting got off to a bit of a tense start, as Chairman Frederick Massie made the point that the special meeting was necessitated due to Chomp altering plans that had priorly been approved regarding where it would place an outdoor patio, which caused a chain reaction resulting in the loss of parking spaces. That caused Chomp to suggest utilizing a shared parking plan — all of which was done without seeking a separate approval to do so first, resulting in a cease and desist order regarding those alterations.
“There’s a level of frustration here. Because we are having a special meeting here as as a means of accommodating your client, who by the way spoke to the Warren Times-Gazette in a way that I found rather disrespectful — that there was a lack of communication. There was no mention of the fact that you had violated the agreement,” Massie said. “Quite frankly, we’re volunteers here. We’re aiming to help. I would have kept silent if I was you, sir, rather than presenting it as though the Town itself had somehow been at fault, rather than your own engineers.”
A creative parking solution
The plan for parking that Chomp came forward with and presented to the planning board with on Monday, however, did wind up addressing the core issues required by local ordinance, and the board ultimately agreed with and voted, 5-1, in approval of that plan.
The plan includes 18 parking spaces on-site, which will be shared between Chomp, Wedge, and Cafe Water Street. A traffic and engineering expert, Paul Bannon of BETA Group of Providence, gave his recommendation that all three businesses have distinct enough hours that they shouldn’t clash with one another — which was bolstered by a separate request the board ultimately approved to shorten the operating hours for Wedge to close at 6pm on days where they are open (Wednesday through Saturday).
Bannon reasoned that Sam Glynn, owner of Chomp, also owns the properties where Cafe Water Street and Wedge operate out of, so he would be disinclined to jeopardize the availability of parking for any of those establishments.
“He would not jeopardize his main operation with those other uses,” Bannon said. “Long-term, it’s not like you have a shopping center and you do shared parking and you have no control over tenants and the buildings. He has total control. He can lease it or not lease it, he can lease it to who he wants and have the hours he wants. With what’s there today, it works well with his business operation.”
In addition to the 18 spots on-site (two of which had to be relocated because they conflicted with an easement secured with Tav Vino regarding the location of a dumpster), Glynn was able to enter into lease contracts with two off-site property owners to secure 14 additional spaces — 8 spaces at 66 Church St., and 6 spaces at 325 Water St. The former is locked in for 10 years, while the latter is a month-to-month arrangement, and all sides agreed that those spaces will be available only to Chomp customers.
The idea of off-site parking raised skepticism from some on the board, some of which found it unlikely that people would be able to find the parking spaces or be inclined to walk the required distance to the restaurant from where those lots are located (they are within the 400-foot radius of the restaurant to be allowable under zoning ordinances, however).
Glynn said that they were going to get creative with making people aware of those off-site spaces.
“I think there’s pragmatic ways of solving it, and having some fun by incentivizing guests and by people just talking about it more,” he said, floating an idea that people could take a selfie with their car parked in one of the off-site spaces to receive a 10% discount off their meal. He said the restaurant would also market the spaces on social media and through their newsletter.
“Nobody wants this to work more than me,” Glynn said. “As a business owner, you have my word that I'll do whatever I need to do to incentivize people to make it easier for us. Because if it’s easier for us, more people come to us, they come to neighborhood businesses and restaurants and it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Planning Board member Ashley Medeiros praised Glynn for finding a creative solution to parking, which so often hampers developmental desires on Water Street.
“We’ve been talking for the last two years about how we don’t have a parking problem, we have a parking management problem. And this applicant came with solutions to all the problems that make sense and are within zoning,” she said. “I wish more applicants would do this.”