Pub owner can build deck, but unable to open it until sewage figure comes in

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When voters approved a change in how Bridgton figures downtown sewage flow, Will Holmes was a happy man.

Owner of Standard Gastropub, Holmes is first in line when it comes to increasing the sewage allotment for his Main Street business. With more and more restaurants and pubs in the Lake Region offering outdoor dining options, Holmes wants to jump on the bandwagon.

“We currently have long waits for our customers during the busy months of the summer season and this addition will give them another option and enable us to serve more patrons without overcrowding or going above our full-service, year-round seating capacity,” Holmes said in his application. “These additional patrons will place orders at the counter for take-away and will be able to seat themselves at an outdoor table to enjoy their food. Full-table service will not be offered.”

Holmes noted that customers using the outdoor space would be monitored by Gastropub staff and asked for proper ID as they enter.

The outdoor space is accessible through the pub’s interior, as well as through an outdoor entrance during peak hours, which will be staffed whenever offered, the application says. Wooden fencing surrounds the outdoor dining area.

Bridgton Police Chief Richard Stillman had no objections to the outdoor seating, “as long as access is limited so minors cannot gain access to alcohol.”

Holmes recently received tentative approval from the Bridgton Planning Board to construct a deck to the backside of his Gastropub, where customers can take their food to dine and enjoy summertime. He also gained approval to offer live entertainment, which will likely include acoustic music and standup comedy.

There is just one catch.

Holmes will be unable to open the deck area until Sewage Superintendent Jim Kidder receives data from an engineer, who is looking at capacity at the town’s two sewage disposal beds servicing the downtown area and determining gallons freed up under the town’s newly-approved Sewage Ordinance.

One figure is an additional 7,000 gallons, but Baker noted that other businesses have inquired about tapping into that availability. As superintendent, Kidder will look at how to allocate that excess after considering the engineer’s data as to the effect on existing disposal fields.

Holmes is presently approved for 39 “internal” customers (a sewage allotment of 350 gallons), and has requested additional gallons for 40-42 “external” patrons using the outside dining area (a needed increase between 200 to 300 gallons, Holmes suspects).

Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker informed planners at their July 5 meeting that it could be weeks before Kidder receives those figures. At press time, no data had been filed with the town.

Holmes was visibly disappointed that the planning board was unwilling to give the 40-person request “conditional” approval, enabling him to open the deck area as soon as possible, thus getting the chance to capitalize on the area’s busiest — and most profitable time — of the year. He noted that Gastropub uses paper products to serve food, thus additional patronage will not require more water (for dishwashing).

Lucia Terry, who served on the Waste Water Committee, also failed to understand planners unwillingness to allow the pub to open the deck and then adjust the number of customers it can allow there from 40 downward, if figures given to Kidder require a reduction, especially since Holmes is “first in line” to receive additional allocation.

Melinda Holmes, Will’s sister, impressed upon planners that every day that goes by and the deck is unusable, profit is lost.

“People here don’t make it through the winter if they are not open in July,” said Melinda Holmes, noting the financial commitment her brother has made trying to operate a business in his hometown.

Planning Board chairman Steve Collins called the wait “unfortunate,” but felt the board would be going “way beyond our authority” if it granted permission for 40 without Kidder’s decision.

The board’s approval did give Holmes the green light to start construction (a stop order had been issued last month because final planning board approval had not been given, and discussion was tabled due to improper notification to property owners within the required 100-foot radius of Holmes’ establishment), yet some financial risk will hang over the pub owner’s head if the 40 figure is slightly or significantly reduced. Construction was underway Tuesday.

The property is owned by H.A. Mapes Inc. of Springvale.

Once Kidder determines “a figure,” it will be inserted into the planning board’s approval document.

Holmes told planners that “low-level” string lights will illuminate the outdoor dining area and will not emit light beyond the property.

As for music, Holmes said there would be “no rock concerts,” but he hopes to bring in small acoustic bands.

Planner Dee Miller expressed concerns about noise levels that come with “electric” instruments. Planner Brian Thomas asked that speakers be “aimed away from (nearby) house lots.”

Holmes pointed out that fencing used behind the Gastropub is designed to act as a noise “barrier.” The fencing ranges in height from five to seven feet.

“I’m all for music, but people living nearby have reasonable expectations,” Miller said.

Neighbor Sue Hatch questioned how noise complaints would be handled. The code officer would likely respond to noise infractions. Acceptable sound levels (based on time of day) are outlined in the town’s ordinance.

Holmes emphasized, “I’m happy to address concerns with neighbors and address it.”

Planners Mike Figoli and Deb Brusini searched for options to allow Holmes to open the outdoor area before all sewage data is in, but in the end, the board felt it was prudent to delay the final approval until Kidder’s ruling has been reached.

“It’s unfortunate, but there are limits we have,” Figoli said. “I don’t agree with it.”

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