The Cheesecake Factory is moving to nearby Trumbull and wants to open this year.
Trumbull’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved applications Wednesday night for the popular chain restaurant, allowing for an outdoor dining patio and a liquor permit. The new restaurant will open at the Westfield Trumbull Mall, located next to Ruby Tuesday’s. According to representatives form Cheesecake Factory, the new restaurant will bring 200 to 300 jobs to town and plans to open in the third quarter of 2014.
The approval was unanimous, though, before approval, commission members asked Westfield Mall to work with residents who came to the public hearing last Wednesday night, complaining of issues and concerns about the mall.
Attorney John Knuff, who was representing the Cheesecake Factory and Westfield, told commissioners that one comment the Westfield often hears from local residents is there is a desire for more and better restaurants in Trumbull.
“I think Westfield has hit a homerun with Cheesecake Factory,” Knuff said. “This restaurant is known for quality service, variety, generous portions and is also a tremendous corporate citizen. It was recently named one of the top 100 places in which to be employed.”
Joe Avotins, an architect and project manager for the Cheesecake Factory told the commission that the restaurant is a family-friendly place to dine, with a menu that has options for everyone.
“When we come into a community, they are usually very excited to see us come,” Avotins said. “We have 200 items on the menu, all made from scratch.”
Avotins said the Cheesecake corporation is very particular about design and only uses high-quality materials, that will last. He said the sign on the outside of the building will be kept in scale to surrounding businesses.
Knuff said there is already sufficient parking for the restaurant and site work on the outside of the building will be minimal.
Paul Dewald, a Director of Operations for the two other Connecticut Cheesecake Factory locations, said the patio would not be playing music or have a bar area, which was a concern for the commission.
“We treat our patio like another dining area,” Dewald said. “It’s the last to open in the daytime and the first to close at night.”
The restaurants hours will be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, the restaurant will close at 10 p.m.
A few neighbors, who live close to the mall, took the opportunity to voice concerns about Westfield in general.
Peter Toomey, a resident of Gorham Place, a property his family has owned for years said he would be able to see the new Cheesecake Factory sign from his house. He showed commissioners photos of a Ruby Tuesday sign on after hours, which isn’t allowed by town regulations.
Toomey said that the mall’s continued expansion has led to more crime, traffic and rodents in the area. He also complained that the mall had promised to address several issues and has failed to do so.
“These are some of the deplorable conditions I’m exposed too,” Toomey said.
Judy Nighland, a resident of Green Street, said her father owned the home for decades, and now, the parking lot of the mall is in her backyard. She said that she had no problem with Cheesecake Factory moving in, but she wanted the mall to build a better fence between her neighborhood and the mall property.
“I’m not against progress but big business should be a good neighbor,” Nighland said.
Nighland said the noise, and crime in her neighborhood has increased. Last winter, people attempted to break into her home and the metal fence, put in by the mall, is not a sufficient deterrent.
Attorney Knuff said the mall has tried to be a good neighbor and does daily sweeps of parking lots to pick up litter and other debris, as well as doing significant landscaping. Knuff said that Westfield’s manager would be happy to meet with residents and discuss if and what can be improved upon.
Commissioner Fred Garrity said he wanted to see the mall work with the residents, so next time a mall application came forward, Westfield could show ways they tried to work with surrounding homes.
Garrity said the mall has don’t a great job but there may be a few areas that could be worked on.
“We have to do what’s right for business, what’s right for the town and what’s right for the people — every time,” Garrity said.
Mall representatives wrote down the contact information for all the residents who attended the meeting.
Commissioner Richard Deecken agreed that Westfield should talk with residents who were concerned.
“This could be an opportunity for the mall to take strides to become a more ideal neighbor for those who don’t see them that way,” Deecken said.