Aldermen approve outdoor patio for Eli's

Eli’s will finally get its outdoor patio.

After more than a year of asking city officials for permission to lease a portion of city property next to the eatery at 21 Daniel Street, Eli’s got approval Thursday night from the Board of Aldermen. The aldermen voted 8-6 in favor of the request.

The Planning and Zoning Board had unanimously approved in October a Conn. General Statutes 8-24 referral for a request from Eli’s owner Richard Ciardiello to lease the city-owned land for an outdoor patio where one had previously been approved.

The P&Z had previously rejected a different application at its Aug. 4, 2015 meeting, following a recommendation from city trial counsel Matthew Woods, who told the board at the time that all they had before them was a concept, but not an actual lease. Woods further added that in 2015, a majority of the neighbors were opposed to the patio. A divided Board of Aldermen rejected the idea at its Aug. 10, 2015 meeting.

At the more recent P&Z meeting, Woods spoke in favor of granting a five-year lease to Eli's owner Richard Ciardiello, saying he had submitted a proposed lease, which details the land and how it would be used.

Included in a packet of information the aldermen reviewed this week are signatures from about 10 neighbors saying they do not oppose the outdoor patio.

The lease calls for having a 10-foot by 51-foot concrete patio with fencing that would be used for outdoor dining. The patio would be a non-smoking area where outdoor live music would not be permitted.

Banners, lights or signs may not be placed on the fence. An awning would be installed above the patio. The patio would close at 10 p.m. Eli’s would have to maintain the planting beds, grass and trees by the patio.

The lease is not assignable to another owner, and should Ciardiello sell the business, the lease would automatically terminate. If the city sells its land, the lease may terminate within 90 days of that sale. If Ciardiello obstructs the area or fails to maintain it, the city may terminate the lease within 10 days.

Eli’s will pay $2,500 a year for the lease.

While the aldermen did not comment before voting Thursday night, Woods offered his opinion when he spoke to the P&Z in October.

“The purpose is not to make money for the city,” said Woods. “The purpose is to enhance the downtown area.”

When the matter went before the Board of Aldermen last year, a number of people spoke against it, citing concerns about noise, possible smoking and the loss of a downtown open space area.

Ciardiello actually hired Former Speaker of the House James Amann to help him get the patio approved, arguing that he bought the downtown restaurant from former owner Richard Conine with the understanding that he would be able to have an outdoor patio. The city had approved a lease for Conine to use the same outdoor space for a patio at his Daniel Street Cafe. When the city approved Conine’s request in 2005, then Mayor James Richetelli said, “It’s consistent with the plan for downtown Milford. We are encouraging outdoor cafés and pedestrian walkways.”