New local liquor laws on tap

New regulations would allow bars like Peggy Fenn's to move into next to other establishments that sell alcohol.

NAUGATUCK – If passed, new Zoning Regulations would loosen restrictions on selling alcohol in the borough.

The changes would be more nuanced than the current regulations which prohibit alcohol sold within 300 feet of a school, charity, hospital, library, or place of worship and within 1,500 feet of another building where alcohol is sold.

The Zoning Commission discussed draft regulations at their Jan. 31 meeting which would limit establishments where alcohol is consumed based on the size, nature, and location rather than their proximity to other buildings.

The revisions are intended to promote downtown growth, making it more inviting for restaurants which serve alcohol, such as TGI Fridays, to set up shop, according to Zoning Enforcement Officer Steven Macary.

There will still be a 500 foot buffer requirement from the front entrance of a package store to another package store, the commission decided.

There should still be a distance between package stores because, unlike restaurants, they are all selling the same thing, Vice Chairwoman Diana R. Raczkowski said. If she were a store owner, she said she would feel more comfortable investing in Naugatuck knowing another store wouldn’t open right across the street.

Commissioner Sally Brouillet disagreed, saying liquor stores already have enough regulations on them.

The town would still have to abide by the state’s 12 liquor store maximum.

Under the new regulations, restaurants which serve seated customers and are less than 10,000 square feet would simply need to submit a site plan in business zones one through three, and industrial zone one, which runs along the Naugatuck River, but would need a special permit in the Rubber Avenue Design District and New Haven Road Design District. Establishments over 10,000 square feet would not be allowed in business zone three, along Prospect Street.

The new regulations also make provisions for hotels, theaters, assembly halls, bowling alleys, and pool halls.

Although the regulations themselves are more complex, it was felt they’ll make it easier for businesses to get started in Naugatuck.

“I think we’ll start to see a little more growth downtown,” Raczkowski said.

The commission discussed how to form the regulations to limit the type of establishments to make sure they fit with the character of the neighborhood they are in.

“We don’t want to over regulate. We just want to protect,” Raczkowski said.

Getting a special permit to put a new store in an existing building would be a waste of the applicant’s time and money and might discourage them from setting up shop in Naugatuck, Raczkowski said.

“We wanted to simplify opening a restaurant in an existing building,” Raczkowski said.

However, new construction would still require a special permit.

The proposed regulations come at a time when the Zoning Board of Appeals is in the middle of a lawsuit for issuing a variance to the 1,500 foot rule to approve a new liquor store on Meadow Street.

Borough attorney Ned Fitzpatrick could not say whether the changes would have an impact on the lawsuit.

The regulations are not a reaction to the lawsuit. The commission has been discussing these changes for several years, Fitzpatrick said.

The last time the borough’s alcohol regulations were changed was in 1957.

“We’re dusting off the cobwebs,” Raczowski said.

There was no public comment on the proposed changes. The Zoning Commission will continue its public hearing at its next meeting, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall. The commissioners hope to finalize the regulations and vote on them at that time.