Freehold Borough planners approve application for microbrewery

FREEHOLD – The Freehold Borough Planning Board has approved an application that proposed the establishment of a microbrewery and restaurant in a vacant building on South Street.

Following a public hearing on Feb. 26, board members granted minor site plan approval and bulk variance relief to 32 South Street Realty, LLC, for a property at 32-38 South St.

Representatives of the applicant appeared before the board to describe a plan to renovate the first floor and a portion of the second floor for microbrewery and restaurant operations.

According to the board, the property is in a business zone. The first floor of 36 South St. is a nail salon and the second floor is office space. The first floor of 38 South St. is vacant after having been occupied by Freehold Glass and Mirror. That space will be renovated.

32 South Street Realty, LLC, plans to install a first floor outdoor patio area on the southern side of the restaurant, a second floor outdoor patio deck and a valet staging area. The nail salon at 36 South St. will remain in that location, according to the board.

Bulk variance relief was sought by the applicant because the project did not meet the minimum number of required off-street parking spaces.

As previously reported, the proposed uses require 73 off-street parking spaces. The property provides two off-street parking spaces and 37 grandfathered parking spaces, for a total of 39 spaces – a deficiency of 34 spaces.

To satisfy the parking demand for the project, the applicant plans to use public parking,  off-site parking leases and a valet parking service at lots in the borough.

The application was initially approved by the board on Jan. 22. However, public questions and comments were not offered that evening and the applicant was required to return on Feb. 26 to provide members of the public with an opportunity for input.

At the Feb. 26 meeting, board members rescinded the Jan. 22 approval to give members of the public an opportunity to comment on the application.

Mike Federici, the owner of Federici’s, 14 E. Main St., said his opposition to the microbrewery and restaurant was due to parking concerns.

He said the new business could attract a significant amount of activity to the borough, where parking is an issue, and he said businesses could be forced to close.

“All that’s going to happen is that we are going to do less business,” Federici said. “My business will survive, but others will be in jeopardy.”

Anthony Braica, the owner of La Cipollina, 16 W. Main St., said, “I am not against this (project). I think this project is wonderful, but not without more parking. This will fail the applicant and the applicant, (or) my business, or another business will go out. We have to solve the parking problem first, then approve the brewery project. It is unconscionable to approve the brewery first.”

Businessman Barry Fisher, who owns property in the borough, spoke in favor of the proposed microbrewery and restaurant.

Making note of the valet service that is used for the Aurum banquet hall in the Market Yard, Fisher said the service has been used without problems and he said it would continue to alleviate parking issues.

“We worked together and that’s how things got done,” Fisher said. “Parking will be an issue, but the valet service will handle it. It will work.”

Following public comment, board members approved a motion in favor of the microbrewery project.