OLD SAYBROOK — Chef Colt Taylor received approval from the Zoning Commission on Monday to relocate his flagship restaurant, The Essex, to 247 Main St. in Old Saybrook, the site of a former bakery.
The Zoning Commission unanimously approved a special exception for a restaurant with 42 indoor seats in the building’s 1,500-square foot first-floor space, as well as up to 20 outdoor seats. The commission approved the conversion of the building’s second floor from office space to two 700-square-foot accessory apartments on March 15.
Taylor said he “fell in love” with moving the restaurant across from the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.
“We want to do a very coastal, Connecticut-style, beach farmhouse restaurant where it’s all about the food, it’s very nautically driven,” said Taylor. “It will be an open bar and a very small open kitchen concept in a retrofitted area that is just a very intimate and upscale dining experience and wine and cocktail program.”
The new restaurant will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Taylor said.
“It’s not a late-night after-hours kind of bar scene. It is a dining experience — it’s all about tasting menus and everything else,” he said.
To meet town parking requirements, the Commission also approved a specific parking arrangement for the restaurant’s employees to park in four spaces at 38 Sherwood Terrace after 4 p.m. An office space at 45 Sherwood Terrace has an agreement to use the parking four spaces from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Employees who arrive before 4 p.m. will park in the restaurant lot and move their cars after 4 p.m. to the Sherwood Terrace location, said Taylor.
There are 160 public parking spaces within 500 feet of the site but they are not counted toward the parking ratio required by the town, said Architect Joe Wren of Indigo Properties, LLC, who manages the building at 247 Main St.
The outdoor seating count exceeded the town’s formula by six seats but Wren asked commission members to consider the amount of public parking when deciding on the application. He also said that many customers already travel to businesses on Main St. on foot or by bicycle.
“We feel that a lot of folks will do as they do now — they will park on Main Street once and they will go to two or three different venues and not move their car, so we feel that this is a very good candidate to increase that seating,” he said.
Commission members, led by Chair Robert Friedmann, agreed by consensus that the outdoor seating was acceptable and voted to approve the application.
The move to Old Saybrook will enable Taylor to expand his other restaurant, Los Charros Cantina, in the building that his two restaurants previously shared at 30 Main St. in Centerbrook.
Taylor said Los Charros Cantina will reopen with a larger, wrap-around bar and will have space for bands to play four or five nights a week.
He also said he plans to resubmit the proposal for Smoke on the Water within a month and will focus on changes “as if a building was on the property” while sticking to the concept of removable trailers.
Taylor said he and his wife bought a house in Old Saybrook a year ago and wanted to show that they’re investing in the community by moving The Essex to Main Street.
“When we resubmit for Smoke on the Water, we hope they’ll have a better idea of who is putting in a restaurant,” he said.
The layout plan shown above for The Essex at 247 Main St. is courtesy of Indigo Properties, LLC.