OLD SAYBROOK — In a three to two vote, the Planning Commission has approved an application for a special exception for Smoke on the Water, a 300-seat outdoor restaurant to be created with customized food trailers at the former Dock and Dine property on College Ave.
“[The property] needs to generate cash flow if there is any chance of moving to a whole building at some point down the road,” said chef Colt Taylor, who is pursuing the project with property owner, Jon Kodama.
Taylor said he was grateful to the zoning members who “stepped up and didn’t just follow the lead of the other two.”
He also said he was disappointed that the members who voted against the project did not seem to take into account the history of the buildings on the site that were destroyed by hurricanes.
“They were saying this is a concept that is for six months and that’s okay but what we really need there is a year round restaurant built to bring it back to what it was,” he said. “When you make comments like that it’s like you’re not even taking into consideration the FEMA zoning changes and the costs of construction, things of that nature and it’s like there’s like a disconnect with reality there when you base decisions on that.”
The project hit a snag on April 12 when the Architectural Review Board deemed the application incomplete and requested full landscape and site plans. Since then, Taylor said he has hired a professional firm to produce renderings and a video that include the landscape settings requested by the Architectural Review Board, which will review the project on May 13.
He said that the project will meet the standards of the architectural board as much as possible.
“We will do the best we can to conform to all the standards and [for] any that we can’t conform to due to property restraints or restrictions, there has been a pattern out in that area of making exceptions to the information based on the property. Buffer zone setbacks, things of that nature and we are going to do our best to get all the way there.”
With the new renderings and video, Taylor said he was hopeful that the community will be able to see the project for what the vision is while acknowledging the “economic realities and changing landscape of restaurants.”
“I’m hoping that everybody going through this really understands that the owner of the property, Jon, and myself partnering up on this site — we really do have the best intentions of the community at heart and in mind. We are not trying to have this all-night party scene out on the docks. We just want a family-friendly restaurant, and we’ve already carved back 150 seats from the previous [project] and other other things to show that we are concerned, we want to be practical and logical and step into it with what we see as a good starting point.”
Tonight at 7 p.m., the Connecticut River Gateway Commission will discuss the project. Click here for the agenda and a zoom link.