Wine & Fun May Mix In Westville, Not On Grand

Aliyya Swaby Photo Westville’s Lyric Hall will now have permission to sell beer and wine at its shows, while a Grand Avenue restaurant may serve, too—minus the live entertainment.

That is the upshot of decisions made Tuesday night by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The board unanimously approved licenses allowing Lyric Hall and Grand Avenue restaurant La Cabana to serve beer and wine. But community complaints led the board to nix the part of La Cabana’s application that requested to offer “acoustic music, disc jockey, karaoke and live bands.”

Permittee John Cavaliere’s pitch to allow a tavern license in Lyric Hall’s live performance theater, by contrast, was accompanied by a long line of Westville supporters, who said serving alcohol would help the business bloom.

Cavaliere said he has been “struggling to catch up” with the business’s taxes since they were raised in 2011; a license would help him increase revenue. Lyric Hall would serve beer and wine three to four times per week during events, with weekday hours from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. and weekends from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Cavaliere renovated the onetime Vaudeville house into an antiques shop and live theatrical and musical performance venue that has become an anchor of Westville Vilalge’s cultural revival. (The videos at the top of the story and here show blues guitarist Guy Davis and Austin folkie Betty Soo performing in a 2013 Bob Dylan revue at the theater. Click here for a story about how neighbors rallied to help the venue recover from damage caused by a 2012 flood.)

Eight neighbors lined up to speak to the board on behalf of the Westville business, including Beaver Hills Alder Richard Furlow.

“Lyric Hall will help sustain and hopefully increase the economic development of Westville Village,” he said.

Musician Chrissy Gardner, a frequent performer at Lyric Hall, called it her “favorite place to perform,” but also “hard without a license.” She said no excessive noise or rowdiness would come from the establishment: “It’s not going to be like a club.”

Meanwhile, Claudio Quezada asked for a special exception to allow a beer and wine license in a general business district in his restaurant La Cabana at 850 Grand Ave. The 28-seat restaurant has no current liquor license, and would serve beer and wine directly to the dining tables, without an accessible bar.

Neighbors’ oppositions hinged on the request to serve live music, DJs and karaoke along with its alcohol, arguing it would increase noise in the area.

“Is it realistic to assume that a restaurant that serves alcohol and presents music will vacate the property at the announced closing time of 9PM?” local businessman Michael Davidson wrote in a letter to the board.

Wooster Square Alder Aaron Greenberg read into the record a letter from neighbors in homes between 70 and 87 Lyon St., who argued that “the acoustic properties created by mortar and brick buildings on Grand Avenue that are surrounded by empty spaces (generally parking areas) create ‘canyons’ [that] exponentially magnify noise to the point that one can literally not concentrate in one’s own home when events take place.”

Four board members voted unanimously to allow the license, with the conditions of keeping hours of operation between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. and dropping the entertainment. Board member Benjamin Trachten did not vote.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 10, 2014  9:59am

The smell of White Privilege.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on December 10, 2014  10:51am

When Murray Trachten was the chair of the BZA his mantra was “New Haven is a city of neighborhoods and we listen to the neighbors.”  Injecting race into this is offensive. Race has nothing to do with it….this is simply listening to the neighbors.

posted by: Bradley on December 10, 2014  1:11pm

In addition, the attorney for La Cabana specifically said that its owners’ primary concern was getting permission to sell beer and wine and that they could live without being able to provide music. These impromptu negotiations occur all the time at BZA meetings.

FWIW, black and Hispanic neighbors routinely object to zoning applications for the same types of reasons (this happened last night) and their objections often result in denials.

posted by: HewNaven on December 10, 2014  3:42pm

The good news is that there are neighbors for 850 Grand. I’d always assumed those were vacant.

Also, whenever 3/5 leaves an inflammatory comment with no substance, I imagine the sound of crickets or I have a vision of a giant hook grabbing him off-stage. Does anyone else have that experience?

posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on December 12, 2014  1:11pm

This is great news for Lyric Hall and John.  You have been a catalyst in Westville’s renaissance and I am happy for this decision.  Anything and everything to help local businesses thrive…but why not allow entertainment on the other side of town!?  Unreal.  One step forward, one step backwards.  Lyric Hall is proof the formula works.  The zoning board should revisit the Grand decision.

posted by: ElmCitier on December 12, 2014  3:36pm

As a Westville resident, I would have normally objected to the introduction of a new liquor license in Westville because for so many years the neighborhood had served as the local watering hole for SCSU students and other drinkers.  We had at one point 6-7 separate establishments within 3-minutes walks of each other: Delaney’s, The Tap Room, The Owl’s Nest, The New West Cafe, Stone Hearth, and Manjares—and Westville Wines package store.  That’s a lot of liquor flowing in a single location about 2 blocks long.  With Owl’s Nest—the worst of the bunch—now gone and sadly Delaney’s (with The Tap Room) having burnt down, something like drinking sanity has come to the area.  Lyric Hall’s request is reasonable: the owner is responsible and a local community participant (unlike New West or Owl’s Nest, who are/were by and large absentee owners when it comes/came to the local business association), and there has never been a noise problem at Lyric Hall.  The only concern—a reasonable one—is that local drinkers don’t take their intoxicated selves noisily into the street.  Fortunately, local businesses—e.g., Stone Hearth’s owner—have been receptive to these kinds of complaints and made real efforts to address the matters with their customers.