NAUGATUCK — In Naugatuck, it had been illegal for many years to eat outside, at least when dining at a restaurant downtown.
It appears that is about to change.
After six months of discussion, the Zoning Commission has unanimously approved an application by the borough to allow restaurants on Church Street, the main commercial area downtown, to set up tables outside. The commission will also allow alcohol to be consumed outside on patios.
Borough attorney Edward “Ned” Fitzpatrick is drafting an ordinance that will go before the Board of Mayor and Burgesses for a vote.
“The intent is for people to be able to sit outside and enjoy a meal and maybe have a drink,” said William Stopper, Zoning Commission chairman. “The intent is not for it to be just an open bar on the street. So we will have to see how it goes.”
The idea was brought to the borough over the summer by Abel Piazza, owner of the Tequila Grill Mexican restaurant at 9 Church St. He approached land use officials in the spring about allowing patrons to sit outside because he had seen other restaurants allowing it and wondered what the protocol was to getting municipal approval.
Land use officials said there is no approval process because it was illegal. They said they did not know why some restaurant owners were allowing outdoor seating on Church Street.
Per Piazza’s request, the borough brought the proposed change to the Zoning Commission for discussion in August.
On Wednesday, Piazza said he was pleased that it was approved, but he questioned why it took so long.
Burgess Kathleen Donovan, burgess liaison to the Zoning Commission, said she believes the measure will benefit downtown business owners.
Borough officials have said they want their ordinance to be similar to that in Torrington. Its ordinance states the city wants to promote commerce in the downtown area and recognizes that outdoor sidewalk dining is an amenity that promotes pedestrian traffic and highlights downtown.
Among the regulations are that Torrington officials must approve permits annually and that the applicant must submit a plan drawn to scale showing the area intended for outdoor sidewalk dining. The plans must show the limits of the dining area, remaining sidewalk, utility structures and any other sidewalk obstacles.
Torrington also states that the seating area shall open no earlier than 6 a.m. and close no later than 11 p.m. The city’s ordinance was adopted in 2011.