No patio yet for Bistro Basque: Aldermen think it might be too big

Milford aldermen tabled a vote on a new outdoor patio in downtown Milford because they said they couldn’t visualize what the patio will look like and were concerned it might be too big.

David Fernandez, the owner of Bistro Basque at 13 River St. and El Barrio Latin Bar & Kitchen at 17 River St., hopes to become the third downtown restaurant owner to have a patio on city-owned land at 25-27 River St., where there is already an outdoor patio that serves Café Atlantique and one that serves Eli’s Tavern.

The city owns the small green area on River Street and leases part of it to Café Atlantique and Eli’s: The Café Atlantique patio is actually a public patio on city land, while Eli’s is a private patio on city land. Fernandez is seeking approval for a private patio on city land, similar to Eli’s arrangement. The lease conditions would be the same, city officials said: Eli’s pays $2,500 a year for the lease, smoking is not allowed, it must close by 10 p.m. and there can be no live music there.

The Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously at its Oct. 17 meeting to recommend that the Board of Aldermen approve a five-year lease with Fernandez, and while most of the aldermen said they like the idea of another restaurant patio there and think Fernandez has done a great job with his downtown businesses, they had too many questions to give the OK at Thursday’s Board of Aldermen’s meeting.

The patio would be adjacent to the one for Eli’s Tavern and would be accessed from the existing rear patio for Bistro Basque.

Mayor Ben Blake said Fernandez got the surrounding businesses to approve his plan before approaching the city to ask permission, and that’s why the request is moving more quickly than did Eli’s, which took more than a year.

The proposed patio is not a square or rectangle but rather a more elaborate shape because of the grading and the desire to avoid cutting mature trees on the property. The proposed patio “zig zags” around the trees, Blake said.

Fernandez said the patio will include wooden decking and landscaping that he said will be attractive for his customers and people walking by.

The memorial benches on the green area would not be affected because there will still be a stretch of green space left, Mayor Blake said in response to a question from Alderman Bryan Anderson.

Fernandez estimated 10 to 12 tables will be put on the patio, seating about 30 people from either of his restaurants.

Alderman Nick Veccharelli praised Fernandez for the work he’s done with his downtown restaurants but said the drawings presented to the aldermen didn’t clearly depict the plans.

“I truly would like to be able to help you make your business more sustainable, but the diagram is ambiguous to me,” Veccharelli said.

Alderman Anthony Giannattasio agreed, saying Fernandez has “done things tastefully,” but he too had questions.

Alderman Ray Vitali visited Bistro Basque prior to the meeting to get a visual sense of the proposal and said he too thinks the proposed patio might be too big.

Most of the aldermen shared those views and decided it would be best to table the request in the hopes of getting a better drawing to review at the next meeting, and allowing the aldermen time to visit the property to see what Fernandez has in mind.

Alderman Bill Bevan was the only alderman to speak against the plan. Although he said developing the property might stop a number of summer night problems there, which include “urination, defecation and fornication” after the bars close, Bevan said he opposes the plan because he thinks that area should be maintained as open, undeveloped space.

“Do we want this to be the legacy of this board, selling off the Milford green?” he said.