New Italian restaurant coming to Depot Street

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer
Work will begin soon for an early spring opening of a new Italian restaurant on Depot Street, Bridgton, called the Vivo Country Italian Kitchen and Bar. The 30-seat restaurant and 18-seat bar will open as early as next March in the “red barn” building at 18A Depot Street, beside the Depot Street Tap House, across from the Bridgton Community Center.
The Bridgton Planning Board gave tentative approval to the project Tuesday. Owners James Burke and Joan Wilson hope to close on the property Dec. 1 with building owners Chuck and Pat Renneker, who also own the Tap House building.
“We’ve owned a home in Bridgton for 10 years, and have always said we’d like to operate a restaurant in Bridgton at some point,” said Burke who, with his wife, has 35 years of restaurant experience with a similar-style eatery in Massachusetts. “We really like Depot Street, and we’ve had our eye on it for some time. Vivo will be an asset to downtown Bridgton, providing a new and inviting place for locals and visitors to meet and socialize.”
The 2,050-square-foot restaurant will be of an informal “Trattoria” style, with no formal menus and casual service of regional Italian food, local Maine craft beers and a large selection of Italian wine and spirits. It will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m., and summer hours will include lunch. The façade will retain its original circa-1900 clapboard siding and trim, with attractive signage and lighting.
Board Chairman Steve Collins praised the development, saying the restaurant application “is completely consistent with what we we’re hoping to achieve on Depot Street, and I applaud the improvement of Depot Street.”
The project has been in the planning stages for many months, and was held up until a determination could be made of how much sewer allocation was needed. State law requires a 1,700-gallon-per-day wastewater allocation for restaurants of Vivo’s size, but Bridgton Selectmen agreed with the Wastewater Committee to waive that standard based on lesser requirements established for comparable restaurants in other states.
Several issues of contention arose in the course of the project’s review.
The first had to do with trash disposal. There is no driveway access to the rear of the building, and board members wondered how dumpster companies would navigate over the continuous sidewalk planned for that stretch of Depot Street as part of the current streetscape construction project.
Burke offered to use a small rolling dumpster, or a dumpster on wheels, and said he plans to compost garbage waste and recycle cardboard in order to minimize the amount of waste generated. Board member Dee Miller didn’t want to hold him to the promise of any one particular disposal method, so it was decided that a rolling dumpster or “equivalent functional trash receptacle” would be added as a condition of approval.
Burke said he and Tap House owner Carrye Castleman-Ross have discussed eventually creating a shared brick patio between the two buildings for outside seating. If so, such plans would require a separate Planning Board approval at a future date. Burke said he plans no entertainment “at this time,” and if he wished to provide it in the future he would need to get an entertainment license from the board of selectmen.
Corn Shop Trading Company owner Mark Grenda wrote to the board of his concern that the Vivo restaurant will create “another smoke-producing establishment that will be even closer to me.” He said people who can get quite loud are “smoking and hanging out on the deck of the Tap House” to such an extent now that “I cannot open windows in my apartments or sit on the porch.”
Collins said issues of noise and/or smoking “has nothing to do with the planning board; we don’t have jurisdiction. It is for the selectmen or the police department” to enforce any violations, he said. The site plan review ordinance does address excess noise, but only if it exceeds 70 decibels at the property boundaries.
Another concern was whether Burke should be required to pay the wastewater allocation fee prior to final planning board approval. Wastewater Committee member Glen “Bear” Zaidman said selectmen approved making such fee payments an approval condition but did not say when the policy was to become effective.
Burke said he was not willing to pay the fee until the allocation policy issues are fully clarified. The board agreed to make the fee payment a condition of final approval.
Signage concerns were also raised when it was realized that the property lies in the General Development I zone, where signs are allowed to be no larger than six square feet. However, two signs are allowed per building, so board member Fred Packard suggested the two signs could be placed side by side.
“Just have one sign say ‘Vi’ and the other sign say ‘Vo’,” Collins quipped. Asked if the sign limitation in the GD 1 district meant the Tap House’s sign was illegal, Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker said, “Probably.”

Please follow and like us: