A businesswoman won permission to open a new lounge and eatery in Westville — then heatedly told a neighboring family they don’t have permission to step inside the doors.
“Don’t show up to my establishment,” Disha Joy Monsanto, the applicant, snapped at neighborhood activist Thea Buxbaum, who sought to prevent her from winning zoning approval to open her restaurant. “I don’t want you there! You’re not wanted there!”
That contentious exchange came after an equally tense hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on Tuesday night. In the basement public hearing room at 200 Orange St., Westville residents faced off with contradictory opinions about Monsanto’s planned Latin fusion restaurant Monsanto plans with seating for 128 patrons in 2,800 square feet, located within an office complex at 50 Fitch St., itself part of a sunken, 3.6-acre lot extending back from Whalley Avenue. Monsanto said she plans to serve entrees just under $25, host local artists in a gallery and bring evening foot-traffic through the neighborhood.
Questions lingered, though, about whether Monsanto, a blight-busting developer who’s new to the culinary biz, has the expertise that’s needed to open a restaurant at an address that’s been dogged by rowdy drinking, gunfire (including a murder), un-permitted construction and black mold. And speakers at the hearing debated whether her venture can succeed without hosting entertainment for crowds and pouring drinks until late on the weekends.
Despite a worry that late operating hours could bug neighbors, City Plan staff recommended that this restaurant be given the go-ahead to stay open past midnight due to the “ample” amount of parking. In his written analysis, Tom Talbot, the city’s deputy zoning director, reasoned that more spots on-site mean fewer loud diners walking through the neighborhood in search of their cars.
After hearing 40 minutes of testimony, the four BZA members in attendance unanimously sided with Monsanto and extended her company, 50s Lounge LLC, a special exception to open a restaurant with a full-service liquor license. (The property is technically owned by several limited liability companies, registered to Edward Roubeni, of Great Neck, N.Y.)
Their vote came with a few conditions: An outdoor patio must be cleared by 10 p.m. every night; the bar must close at 11 p.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends; no entertainers other than deejays, musicians, comedians and magicians can perform; and 32 parking spaces must be clearly designated.
A Bar for Whom?
While parking and patio usage did come up, the overarching question of the evening was to whom the restaurant will cater: Will it be a neighborhood joint that fills up for happy hour? Or a destination for Southern Connecticut State University undergrads, a half-mile away, to binge until early morning?
Several neighbors said they want a watering hole nearby where older adults can hang or work without getting in the car to drive downtown. Honda Smith, a longtime West Hills resident and community leader, said Monsanto’s team has proven its ability to bring change to the troubled locations with housing renovations, and that’s what was needed in a spot that has hosted Soco’s, Deja vu Bar and Restaurant and 30 Plus Bar and Restaurant since 2008.
“Fine dining: You don’t have to worry about a hamburger joint or anything like this. They’ve got a chef — a real chef — on board to bring out elaborate dishes that’s not expensive for the people,” Smith said. “As you know, with the economy, we want to eat nicely, we want to go out, we want to hear great music and enjoy dining with our family. This is what they’re bringing.”
The late-night weekend hours made some neighbors skeptical that the lounge is meant to serve dinner just to locals. Kathleen Bradley, who described herself as “mature,” noted the only time she’s up at those hours is on New Year’s Eve.
“If it’s after midnight, it is a bar. It’s not a restaurant,” added Buxbaum, who said she’s heard gunshots and other ruckus at her home on West Rock Avenue. Her house is directly across the narrow West River from the rear of 50 Fitch. “It sounds like there’s a lot more property management experience, and that’s exciting. But as many of us know, restaurants have short life spans with inexperienced operators.”
The ward’s alder, Richard Furlow, acknowledged the past difficulties at the site. But he argued out that it would be unfair to saddle that history on the new operators. In asking the board to give Monsanto a chance, he promised he’ll show up if any problems arise. “I have every confidence that anything that could potentially happen in the parking lot will be dealt with quickly. If not, I’m going to be there, calling them and knocking on their door, saying, ‘What’s going on?’”
Furlow’s support was enough to sway board member Patricia King, she said, and the other three signaled their agreement with an affirmative vote.
An Invite and a Cancellation
After the public hearing closed, opponents headed for the same back exit.
“Don’t talk to me,” a peeved Monsanto told Buxbaum. “I have no words for you.”
Buxbaum, who spearheaded the renovation and new construction of artist housing and commercial spaces that sparked Westville Village’s renewal over the past two decades, continued asking Monstanto questions. She asked if the new operators understand how the clamor outside the bar travels right to her bedroom window. She pulled out her phone to show her proximity to the bar on a map.
At that, Monsanto exploded. “Racism! Why do I have to hide what it is? I’m being put in a box: ‘You have no experience.’ They don’t say that to other business owners.” Monsanto and people who spoke up for her project are black; Buxbaum and many of the neighborhood skeptics are white.
Monsanto then stated that Buxbaum hadn’t answered phone calls and had missed a significant portion of the community management team meeting where plans for the eatery were discussed. Monsanto later told the Independent she felt it was unfair that Buxbaum had presented her grievances at a public hearing, rather than earlier in the process; Buxbaum, for her part, said she’s been recovering from a major surgery since December so she wasn’t available during some of that time.
“I said, ‘Call me.’ You never responded,” Monsanto berated Buxbaum. “Don’t lie in front of your son!”
Monsanto’s supporters called her name, pleading with her to cool it. Monsanto continued, “I’m not out of line. You’re not being honest in front of your child.”
Practically pulled apart, the two women temporarily separated. But six minutes later, at the other end of the hallway, they exploded into another confrontation.
“Joy, I invite you to my home,” Buxbaum offered.
Too late, Monsanto said. “You’ve been absentee all the while,” she said, adding, “Don’t come to my establishment.”
“That’s sad,” Buxbaum answered.
“Go home to your children,” Monsanto said. “Apologize to your son for lying!”
The hallway cleared out, and Buxbaum was left alone with her 13-year-old son. He brimmed with questions about what had just happened to his mom.
“Sweetheart, you know what, people see things through the lenses they see things through. And it’s very hard to get away from how you imagine something and see something,” she told her child. “Feelings are very strong when someone disagrees.”
Although unlikely, the zoning board’s decision can be challenged in court within 15 days of the certified decision letter, Talbot reported. Absent a lawsuit, Monsanto said she’s aiming for a November opening; Buxbaum said she plans to buy earplugs.
Dear Ms. Monsanto, If you happen to read this, know that many of us are excited to have you open your restaurant and will be there to spend our money and support you! Thank you for your hard work in getting this passed. I am sorry I didnt attend to support you and am sorry for what you had to put up with. I am embarrassed for my neighborhood. I hope all of us prove the naysayers wrong.
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on May 10, 2017 1:26pm
A couple of thoughts. First, while it is useful for neighbors to raise concerns about developments at management team meetings, it is in no way required. Presumably Atty. Almodóvar explained the BZA process to his client. Second, while there is a 15-day period to appeal the decision, people other than abutters would have to demonstrate a particular grievance, which is not easy. Third, there are plenty of bona fide restaurants in town that are open past midnight - being open that late does not in itself make you a bar.
I’m glad to read that Buxbaum’s son attended the hearing. If he is like the 13-year olds I have met, I suspect he knows that sometimes adults are not nice to one another.
posted by: GroveStreet on May 10, 2017 1:52pm
I would be interested to know if Buxbaum has been as active in trying to block white-owned institutions.
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 10, 2017 2:41pm
If you folks are going to get all ‘Get Out’ about this from the get go, it just doesn’t look good for anybody….
Monsanto’s accusations of racism against Thea Buxbaum sealed the deal for me. I will not be supporting this new establishment.
Very disappointed that this is the New Haven I call home…...
posted by: tina tucci on May 10, 2017 2:47pm
The mention of racism here seems very bizarre, yet sadly predictable. It isn’t the first time I’ve noticed African Americans resorting to charges of racism when things don’t go their way. As someone who has battled late night noise makers for many years, I can certainly understand and sympathize with Ms Buxbaum’s concerns. I doubt very much that race is an issue here. It’s just an excuse which will raise it’s ugly head again when Ms Monsanto confronts the police at her door, responding to the late night noise complaints of her neighbors.
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 10, 2017 3:06pm
I think Thea’s has some genuine experience and concern as being a 20 year Neighbor to the 50 Fitch Street. Monsanto is making a big mistake about making this about race….. as are you….
Last time I checked Neville Wisdom was pretty damned black, and he is welcome in Westville….
Personally, I don’t trust people that call out ‘racism’ in a public forum when that forum is voicing some legitimate community concerns.
It tells me where the racism really lies…....
posted by: westville man on May 10, 2017 3:20pm
Hey Bill, That’s your perogative. I know a little history here in the Village and it’s not all peaches and cream. And for all white folks deciding what is and isn’t racism, when did you become experts on the subject? If the food and drink is good, my family, friends and I will spend more than enough money to make up for your absence.
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 10, 2017 3:30pm
Who brought race into the discussion….????”? Wasn’t Me…...
Are you saying that Thea doesn’t have some valid concerns and that this meeting wasn’t the right place for her to express them?
Do you think Monsanto’s ‘racism’ allegation against Buxbaum was appropriate?
Answer those questions, and then we might be able to start to have a conversation….
I am amused by the line that the only entertainment allowed is “deejays, musicians, comedians and magicians.”
What other options are there, male strippers?
posted by: brownetowne on May 10, 2017 4:22pm
I can understand Buxbaum’s frustration about the late night noise that this property has produced over the years. That space isn’t really appropriate for a late-night restaurant and the nearby landscaping business doesn’t belong there either. Nevertheless, they are allowed to operate under the law. Hopefully if they shut down the patio at 10PM it won’t generate much noise pollution.
I don’t understand the opposition’s argument regarding the operator’s lack of restaurant experience. If they want to invest all this money, then it’s theirs to lose. If the restaurant is a success, then that’s great. If the restaurant goes belly-up in a year, then that’s too bad - but it’s mostly too bad for the operators and investors who lost money. An entrepreneur shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to open a restaurant because they might not do a good job and go out of business.
If I were Buxbaum I would not want this place either and folks are allowed to have a personal preference, but I don’t think anybody opposing the application made any arguments that would impact the decision of the zoning board.
@Joy Monsanto, I’m excited to check out your restaurant and are glad you are joining the neighborhood. Thanks for investing in Westville.
posted by: BoboSkribs on May 10, 2017 6:01pm
Thanks for investing in Westville Joy we’re glad to have you!
posted by: new haven can do better on May 10, 2017 6:41pm
@Joy Monsanto, I won’t be checking out your restaurant. Sounds as though you aren’t suited well to deal with the public if this is how you behave when things don’t go your way. I can only imagine what will happen when someone sends a burger back to the kitchen bc it isn’t prepared properly. And dragging racism into the dialogue is simply absurd.
posted by: Eric B. Smith on May 10, 2017 8:36pm
A few comments:
1. It’s funny to hear people talk about “African-Americans who cry racism when things don’t go their way.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but things went Ms. Monsanto’s way. If Ms. Buxbaum’s concerns about the neighborhood should be taken seriously, then Ms. Monsanto’s concerns about racism should be taken seriously as well, especially since the article states Ms. Monsanto’s supporters were black and many of her skeptics were white.
2. I hope, after a little time has passed, that Ms. Monsanto will accept Ms. Buxbaum’s invitation to her home. THAT would be a great lesson by example for Ms. Buxbaum’s son. As Howard Thurman said, “Contact without fellowship often leads to contempt.”
3. It’s equally funny to hear people say they won’t go to the restaurant. If the restaurant is well-run, the food is good, and a good reputation is spread, then the detractors will eventually fall in line and go or they will remain stubborn and their “protest” won’t matter.
Good luck Ms. Monsanto. I hope the restaurant is successful for the sake of Ms. Monsanto, Ms. Buxbaum, the Westville neighborhood, and New Haven in general. And may the mental shackles of discord and division be broken.
posted by: JoSkull:) on May 10, 2017 9:24pm
Happy/Sad. Happy to potentially have a place in walking distance that I can take both kid before bedtime, and friends if I get a night out (miss you Stone Hearth/Delaney’s!). Sad, or more accurately pessimistic because for 15+ years I have lived right near this location and life is different when there is a bar there. In my experience, often when its closing time (I think in the past it was midnight or earlier, not 1am), we get a good hour of serious noise. In part because of the bowl-like quality of the space (we can actually hear normal voice conversations a hundred feet away), but also because of the size of the parking lot where tipsy folks like to drive in circles, screech up the hill to the street, and continue their revelry before heading home. The worst has been the many fights, the shots fired a few times, and at least twice women being assaulted. Calls to 911 and the police non-emergency # (I know when to use each) are common. Another issue is that police have used sirens to clear the lot out (I’ll be calling Alder F :). I don’t know anything about the developer, but I wish her sincere luck in this space as I would LOVE a new option close to home. But its a tricky spot for sure.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 10, 2017 9:37pm
Buxbaum said she plans to buy earplugs.
Get ready.She will be calling the police with Noise Complaints.
I have been in this area since 1992, and even worked at 50 Fitch St. when it was Captain’s Pizza, and when Cohen’s was Reflections-a very underage bar/club. I was also there when the Cape Codder had it’s college nights, when ladies drank free for two hours, then it was $1 drinks (and no one in there was 21). SCSU’s Rugby Houses were right there, as well as a fraternity that had regular parties. This was acceptable, but someone trying to bring in a restaurant with entertainment is not??? Where was all of this outrage when all that I have described was occurring. There has been no significant development since those days, in fact, the apartment complex built next to the old 500 Blake St. restaurant has brought nothing but noise and complaints, and businesses have closed. This establishment should be welcomed as part of a resurrection of this area. Buy those earplugs and calm down folks.
posted by: theNEWnewhaven on May 11, 2017 1:30am
Ha, the new default to win an argument these days!
If you are WHITE and DISAGREE with what I say / want AND I am A PERSON Of COLOR, you are a racist by default because institutionally you were raised to be wary of my success / my people in masses / power being out of your control.
Screaming Racism is HOT right now. What’s not HOT? Being a concerned taxpayer and being told you have no voice because you’re white and white people have institutionalized racism for their benefit.
What’s sad is if she BELIEVES that this woman is a naysayer because of her RACE and not the fact that she’s within earshot of the joint….she’s delusional.
Such a shame she had to go THERE, NOW!
She lost her cool and, with it, a lot of respect from the neighborhood and NHI readers still lucky enough to have a level head in this day and age.
posted by: westville man on May 11, 2017 8:26am
the NEWnewhaven- yep, racism is dead and white people are being systematically discriminated against! Your post would be funny if it weren’t so tragically misinformed. It’s the reason why race relations are sliding backwards in this country.
posted by: Renewhavener on May 11, 2017 9:06am
I’ll wade in. Why not?
Whatever on the topic of race card playing. Am so numb to it by now.
Have even been accused in this forum of being racist. Which I find terribly ironic since other people who say they are trying to combat it use their mouth, while others among us are let’s just say more committed physically to the task.
So to that point, bringing the kid into the argument is absolutely classless. Has nothing to do with any respect owed to Monsanto as a business person or entrepreneur. All that earned respect is lost once you cross that line IMO. Am pro-growth and pro-Westville, but got to carry oneself in these endeavors as a pro-fessional.
It’s so funny how it’s 2 owners of the establishment and the primary owner Mike Amato no one is addressed him only the Monsantos women.(hmmmmm funny how they say is not racism so what is it then?). The concerns that Thea had was racist she said it’s going to be gun violence?, I wonder why because she’s a women of color!?. The monsantos women did not loose her cool at all the other women was downright rude and nasty. No one didn’t see when she came out the hallway following monsantos family, taking out her phone, and got in the face of the supporters. It seems to me Thea stayed around to antagonize the supporters of 50 Fitch. I don’t think Thea deserve an apology, how do you think Monsantos and Amato feels about what Thea said about them. If I can recall she said,” they weren’t capable of owning or running a business!.When Geronimos got granted to stay open to 2am?? She never showed up to that meeting to fight them!
posted by: 32knot on May 11, 2017 9:49am
What “....ism” was it when the East Rock Neighbors opposed Nica’s Market expansion?? What “...ism” was it when the Dwight Neighborhood opposed that Hotel’s ideas for improvement??
In the Delaney’s article and comments the bulk of discussion was on the question of: How much money and resource should the City give the developer to rebuild and open a bar/restuarant? As I remember the old Delaney’s, it was a wonderful neighborhood centerpiece, comprised of a restaurant, outdoor patio, adjoining bar populated by SCSU millennials. It wasn’t a quiet spot, and certainly was within earshot of Ms. Buxbaum. I also remember the old Owl’s Nest, a notoriously rowdy spot, and the prior incarnations of the 50 Fitch Street restaurant / bar (dating back many, many years). All of these establishments are within close proximity to Ms. Monsanto’s place. Yet I have not seen any reports of the City administration or Westville Renaissance pledging support or encouragement. And it is worth noting that no taxpayer subsidy is requested.
Without knowing how Ms. Buxbaum has reacted to those prior establishments I cannot offer any opinion on her motives for opposing the current application. However, Ms. Monsanto has offered her opinion that Buxbaum’s opposition was a product of what she believes to be racism. Some may recoil at the mention of that term. I do not feel it can be summarily dismissed. It is a worthy subject of discussion, given the apparent disparate treatment Ms. Monsanto has received.
To everyone’s credit, the BZA unanimously approved the application, and Ms. Monsanto can proceed. I join the others in welcoming her and look forward to dining at her place as soon as it is open. I also hope that as neighbors, Ms. Buxbaum and Ms. Monsanto can rebuild their relationship and work together to make the neighborhood an inviting and exciting place to come to.
posted by: Leslie Blatteau on May 11, 2017 10:44am
Maybe the privilege of buying a building for $1 makes you to forget what it’s like to struggle to start a business.
Thank you so much for your reference. The comments concerning Waterman’s reaction to their acquisition are instructive:
Yet the building exactly met their requirements.
‘‘Unlike artists who use canvas, I am difficult,’’ said Mr. Waterman. ‘‘I make noise. I needed something industrial. To find something that was commercially zoned, with a big backyard where I can make my noise—but a place that was still a neighborhood—seemed almost impossible.’‘
The jury may still be out on whether racism motivated their reactions to Monsanto. But it is very clear in my mind the role that hypocrisy played.
posted by: westville man on May 11, 2017 12:01pm
Renewhavener- Glad you have the option of being numb to it- many dont have that luxury- they live it. When confronted with my own racism, I reflect on it and evaluate it. And many times I realize I was.
posted by: Kevin McCarthy on May 11, 2017 12:06pm
I frequently attend BZA meetings. Neighbors routinely raise issues of noise, traffic, and parking, whether the applicant is white, black, or hispanic. On the other hand, race affects land use planning in general, just as it affects most aspects of life.
posted by: Renewhavener on May 11, 2017 12:09pm
@32Knot, “What “....ism” was it when the East Rock Neighbors opposed Nica’s Market expansion?? What “...ism” was it when the Dwight Neighborhood opposed that Hotel’s ideas for improvement??”
East Rock? Nimbyism. Dwight? Classism.
Both are oversimplifications no matter what name or meaning we try to attach to either event. Both are also forms of anti-business parochialism and hyper-local neighborhood-specific provincialism.
posted by: Lizzy Donius on May 11, 2017 1:59pm
On behalf of WVRA (Westville Village Renaissance Alliance) I am happy to pledge our support and encouragement of Joy and Mike’s restaurant! We are excited to help make their dream a success, as I testified to at the meeting. Joy and Mike have been very engaged, attending multiple community meetings and encouraging people to contact them. Many people felt that the proposed 2 am close was too late at that location, and indeed this time had already been negotiated to 1 am before the hearing started. Emotions can run high when people care. I am glad that the BZA has made a decision and we can all move forward and welcome this new restaurant!
posted by: southwest on May 11, 2017 6:02pm
What’s so amazing to me is how people buy property and homes in areas like this and down town which had a night life before they moved their..Once they move there knowingly these establishments existed but now they want to change the whole environment because they don’t want no noise or music there..I can understand excessive noise or long term noise..but come on people it’s a city that you are living in like New York and other cities with a vibrate nigh life..if you don’t want to be part of that environment then move into another area where it doesn’t exist…it’s always that hand full that want to cause havoc on others…there is a large population of condos,apartments and other homes over their..why isn’t they complaining also… just saying..
posted by: adelaide12 on May 11, 2017 10:37pm
It’s sadly predictable that Ms. Monsanto is pulling the race card here in defense of her establishment. Throwing race into the mix into a situation that clearly has absolutely nothing to do with race is reason enough for me to not be supporting this establishment.
posted by: Chamere26 on May 12, 2017 7:49am
@adelaide12 What card is Thea playing? There will be 8 restaurant opening in the Village, the one that got granted 2am Thea was no where to found to oppose it, why? Because the owners are 2 white males with a Mexican Chef. Thea also told the court room Monsanto had no experience and also associated gun shots being heard from this establishment in the past to Monsantos new venture why???Because she is Black…. Instead of Thea going home after her testimony she followed the supporters to the hall way to Taunt them about her stance. There are 2 owners why isn’t Thea addressing Mr. Amato??? Why because he is a White male No one ever questions the capability of white people Owning or running several businesses think about. 9/10 you were not going to support that place anyway…. why ???Because one of the owners are Black.
posted by: Chamere26 on May 12, 2017 7:51am
Covert racism is a form of racial discrimination that is disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious. Concealed in the fabric of society, covert racism discriminates against individuals through often unnoticeable or seemingly passive methods. Covert, racially biased decisions are often hidden or rationalized with an explanation that society is more willing to accept. These racial biases cause a variety of problems that work to empower the suppressors while diminishing the rights and powers of the oppressed. Covert racism often works subliminally, and often much of the discrimination is being done subconsciously.
posted by: Chamere26 on May 12, 2017 7:53am
White people always have a distrust of blacks , they always doubt their abilities and motives.
posted by: Chamere26 on May 12, 2017 8:08am
Any business can be successful and any business can fail it doesn’t matter who the present or former owner is. This entire incident is sad and ppl who don’t want to eat there simply don’t show up. Monsanto does not need the negativity
posted by: ElmCitier on May 12, 2017 8:33am
Some corrections to the record…
“Maybe the privilege of buying a building for $1 makes you to forget what it’s like to struggle to start a business.” That privilege cost $1 plus $100K-$200K plus in renovation costs.
“As I remember the old Delaney’s, it was a wonderful neighborhood centerpiece, comprised of a restaurant, outdoor patio, adjoining bar populated by SCSU millennials. It wasn’t a quiet spot, and certainly was within earshot of Ms. Buxbaum. I also remember the old Owl’s Nest, a notoriously rowdy spot, and the prior incarnations of the 50 Fitch Street restaurant / bar (dating back many, many years).”
Glad you remember the old Owl’s Nest. Ms. Buxbaum—along with many, many Westville residents of all races who lived nearby—objected to its existence and city’s maintenance of its liquor license. She and other Westville residents also opposed an incoming storage company that would have taken over the old Community Action Agency building on the corner of Fitch and Whalley. Those business owners were white. The objection was to the quality of life of the neighborhood. Oh, and let’s not also forget the number of African-American owned business which contribute significantly to Westville—Neville’s, Chip in a Bottle, Authentic, and others.
Comparing Delaney’s & Owl’s Nest is apples and oranges, and the commenter should know better. The Fitch Street area has been a repeated site of failed bar/restaurant businesses, with regular policy. If the new owners can succeed, good on them. But racism? Really? That’s just weak.
Black women yell racism just as much as white woman yell sexual harassment , Thea picked a fight and Monsanto finished it. It’s over guys, Monsanto is welcoming everyone to her restaurant whether they choose to Dine there or not. All is Welcomed!
posted by: Razzie on May 12, 2017 9:59am
ElmCitier – So, is your point that Buxbaum’s opposition is Nimbyism and hypocrisy … but not racism?
Even if I accept your statements that she has opposed the Owl’s Nest and the storage facility, it doesn’t alter the fact that she moved to New Haven into a commercial themed neighborhood, filled with regular sights and sounds of a commercial / light industrial district. She did not come here for the peace and quiet of a suburban lifestyle. One of their main draws mentioned for selecting this area (other than the $1 purchase price of the building) was the fact that her husband needed a place where he could be NOISY in carrying out his tradecraft. Yet now she finds other people’s noise intolerable? It doesn’t have to be racist to be WRONG!
Chamera26 makes valid points in questioning “Why?” Why is Buxbaum projecting the past bad experiences of the Owl’s Nest and prior 50 Fitch bars onto the establishment Monsanto is going to open? Only Thea can answer that. However, clearly Buxbaum has no knowledge or experience of Monsanto. She can only surmise as to what she thinks Monsanto’s clientele will be … and how they will act. That is where issues of racism creep into the discussion. It is a valid question. Thankfully, the BZA rightly concluded that Buxbaum’s suppositions and unwarranted fears were not appropriate.
Buxbaum perhaps only wants to carve out a quiet little spot in Westville where she can get some peace and quiet. That would be as unrealistic today as it was when she first came to New Haven. Westville is a retail / commercial district – even more so now than when she came. Restaurants are a part of that community. And restaurants draw all types of people … and the NOISE that goes along with it.
posted by: brownetowne on May 12, 2017 10:50am
Razzie, I think you make some good points about the tradeoffs involved in residing in a residential/commercial neighborhood. However, a restaurant does not need to be noisy. If the restaurant is generating a lot of noise, then it’s probably more of a “club” or a “bar” or “roadhouse” type of place. This isn’t the kind of place that was proposed to exist on Fitch Street, so noise shouldn’t be an issue. Let’s hope this works out for everyone.
posted by: theNEWnewhaven on May 12, 2017 11:14am
westville man - White people are trying to talk about something beyond race, for once.
When race gets brought in to counter an argument…people like YOU should ask why.
Not ask WHY someone like me points out how insane it looks.
IF the naysayer was black…what would the argument be if a CLOSE neighbor voiced concern over noise?
That’s not racist…that’s a neighbor who’s invested in an area voicing their concern over what COULD be a nuisance / dilute the quality of life they worked to create.
ENOUGH already with this argument or when it IS RACIST down the road…those that should listen will cluster complaints in with this type of BULL.
posted by: ElmCitier on May 12, 2017 12:23pm
Actually, you missed the point. Ms. Buxbaum’s claim was that a location serving alcohol until very late in the night in a location where line of sight by neighbors and police is severely restricted is just asking for trouble—for the neighbors, the police, the patrons, and the business owner. That’s the real point of the Soco story and of the Owl’s Nest. Owl’s Nest was off of a main sight line as a business tucked inside a specifically residential block and 50 Fitch is located in a declivity that is difficult to monitor. How do I know? New West Cafe, just around the block, but on Whalley Avenue, never had the Owl’s Nest’s problems and stays open into the wee hours of the night. No complaints posted about that.
NIMBY-ism? Of course, it is, built on experience of what happens when you put the wrong kind of business in the wrong kind of location—or perhaps the right kind of business with the wrong set of rules governing it in the wrong location. If it were in your backyard, even if you live in a commercial district, you’d be saying no differently. And why is that? Because it is not just a commercial district. It is a mixed commercial and residential housing area. It’s a 2-way street. Residents respect and make allowances for businesses—and visa versa. Apparently the visa versa doesn’t apply here.
Ms. Monsanto and Mr. Amato (boy, everyone seems to like leaving Mr. Amato out of this discussion), like other business owners who don’t live where they work (Ms. Buxbaum and Mr. Waterman do), have to respect that reality when they opt to open a business in a mixed commercial/residential area.
posted by: Eric B. Smith on May 12, 2017 1:06pm
I don’t know if this instance is racism or not, but America has a lllooonnnggg history of using rules, procedures, and various boards, commissions, etc. to mask racism. Given the fact that, based on the article, her supporters were black and most of her detractors were white, it shouldn’t be so hard to understand why Ms. Monsanto might view this attempt to stop her from opening her business as racism…even if it wasn’t. As I said before, if Ms. Buxbaum’s concerns are to be taken seriously, then Ms. Monsanto’s concerns about this being NIMBY-laced racism should be taken seriously as well.
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 12, 2017 1:34pm
I don’t think your posts have done much to help the new restaurants cause here…..
Fanning the flames of perceived ‘racism’ is just an exercise in alienating the neighborhood.
posted by: Razzie on May 12, 2017 2:01pm
ElmCitier— If you pick Nimbyism, that’s fine with me. But your factual justifications don’t hold water. This is not about altering the essential nature or use of the Fitch Street structure, which predated Buxbaum’s. Any concerns about safety and crowd control are best addressed by suggesting security measures to be put in place, not by attempting to block the business from getting started. And it bears noting that Fitch Street is a well-traveled state highway at that location. It isn’t tucked away in a remote inaccessible location. The structure is situated in a declivity; however, line of sight is not impaired from the street, and parking lot security could address any issues you complain of. [Factually: New West Café parking lot is dark and completely hidden from view; Owl’s Nest was no more than 150 feet from Whalley Avenue.]
If you compare the location to Shell and Bones at City Point, the Fitch Street location is far less remote, and its parking lot is much less foreboding. So, if the owners of Shell and Bones proposed to invest their money and energy into the upgrades planned by Ms. Monsanto, would you still object? The storyline then would likely be how welcoming Westville was going to be because of the “highbrow” new tenant. As in the Delaney’s piece cited earlier, the discussion would also be about how the new tenant and his related financial investments would help to stabilize a deteriorating structure and breathe new life into a neglected part of the city. (Much like the storyline when Buxbaum acquired her $1 building). Yet you have no reason whatsoever to suspect that Ms. Monsanto’s clientele will be any different, or any more troublesome than those of Shell and Bones, or any other establishment. And if safety is a real issue, that’s what community policing is all about.
So your point is that it’s not noise issues, it’s policing and personal safety of patrons. I am not convinced.
posted by: Bill Saunders on May 12, 2017 4:09pm
To add to this dialog,
Ms. Monsanto reached out to me on Facebook immediately after my first post.
I immediately suggested that she reach out in the comments section to assuage this debacle, but she wanted me to speak for her, which, of course, I refused.
I told her that if she got on this comment board with some graciousness, it could go a long way, but apparently Chamere is the poor proxy that she employed .
The word ‘apology’ has never come up in this discourse, except as my suggestion to her in private. She is apparently indignant about Thea bringing into question her business acumen. She says Thea doesn’t deserve an apology.
I think a lot of damage has been done through this ‘approval process’. If I were an investor, I would think twice…..
my proxy is nothing but the truth I am exposed to…...
posted by: ElmCitier on May 12, 2017 6:04pm
So, Razzie, let me see if I have this straight. Concerns expressed by individuals who live in the neighborhood about the establishment of a restaurant by individuals who don’t live in the neighborhood in a specific location where restaurants have had a history of trouble because of its location (as reported in the article) on a property owned by someone not even in the state, should take a clear back seat to business interests. Nice show of respect for the concerns of a neighborhood’s residents.
If you’re trying to play some sort of race trap with Shell & Bones, don’t bother. I made a public planning argument: I still am. So since you raised the matter, go ahead and check on Shell & Bones’ hours. That’s actually one of key issues here. In case help is needed with that, let’s go over them: Friday and Saturday, they close at 11 p.m.; Monday through Thursday at 10 p.m. Will this new establishment be doing the same? Article doesn’t report the matter, but grapevine has it that it want to keep bar hours.
Personally, I suspect Shell & Bones keeps the hours it does because it is also in a commercial/residential area. In brief, the owners care about what their neighbors think, a very real issue for the residents on City Point.
Finally, I have no idea who Ms. Monsanto and Mr. Amato’s clientele will be. I don’t think it matters. There is a concern based on history, and history should not be glibly dismissed. I don’t have to agree with Ms. Buxbaum or my Westville neighbors about business development concerns—and I have disagreed with them—to know when an improper response from a new business is offered as if it settles the matter when it has done no such thing.
If Ms. Monsanto and Mr. Amato can make this work, I say more power to them. But they shouldn’t take umbrage at legitimate complaints based on an observed and recorded history. I trust Richard Furlow to hold to his commitment to keep an eye on this, as reported here.
posted by: Razzie on May 13, 2017 9:42am
OK … so it’s NOT the noise, and it’s NOT the policing and patrons’ personal safety issues that drive your opposition. It is now the hours of operation (staying open past 11:00). I suspect there is no end to the objections that can be raised.
I don’t mean to belabor this debate, the BZA has granted approval. In doing so, BZA has chosen to look to the future and not be bound by the failures of any past owners. You are free to agree or disagree for any reason – or for no reason at all. I can only wish you well, and that in time your fears will be won over by having a positive future experience with your new neighbors. If you give it a chance ... I think you will like it. I applaud WVRA taking a positive stand on this matter and welcoming a new member. We should all work together to make this venture a huge success.
posted by: Joy Monsanto on May 13, 2017 11:22am
Hi guys, it’s me Joy I’m thanking the community in advance for allowing Mike and I to apologize about the altercation that occurred after the zoning meeting regarding 50s on Fitch restaurant aka 50 Fitch. We have worked tirelessly to turn this establishment around. We are well aware of its past issues as you guys are. We have been very transparent in the new ownership process by attending Cmt meetings, working with the Captain. Alder, Sergeant, NHPD (to obtain crime stats) Wvra, and also forming an upcoming meeting with the Dean of Southern. Cameras and a copy of noise ordinance will be displayed randomly throughout the restaurant , and a dress code to dine. Thurs ,fri, sat there will be an officer on duty to further ensure safety. Please allow us to continue to do our work to fix this troublesome location. I’m very happy to see that I have some supporters who want change , and want to see us succeed ( thankyou) .. Mike and I want HAPPY Peole and patrons and will keep them safe. The entire Westville Village are welcomed as well as Beaver Hill and all of our Great City (New Haven) this will be a sanctuary location. Once again I am apologizing for the angry exchange that took place after the zoning meeting. We are very Pationate and excited to be apart of both Westville Village and Beaver Hill and furs what guys??? this place is 100% legal inside and out due to the hiring of 4 Local attorneys and an Engineering firm ( my team) !!! Feel free to call me , email me, or text me directly to address any further concearns on this matter or about 50s on Fitch Restaurant in general !!! And yes we have a chef…Lol Chef Lastra is excited to meet his patrons personally , let’s make it happen guys!! We are here. Thnx Joy 203-836-1415 Safety , Service, and Great Food are our main Focus!!!
posted by: westville man on May 13, 2017 12:58pm
the NEWnewhaven- ” White people are trying to talk about something beyond race, for once” LOL! As if whites EVER talk (or learn) about racism. No more wasting my time on this with you.
posted by: Joy Monsanto on May 13, 2017 5:29pm
Our focus @ 50s on Fitch (aka Fitch str) is to bring fokes together over food. Please help us bridge this gap and repair this broken location, we Welcome All , this location is for Happy People who would like to have a great time with good food. We are taking all concearns and inqueries serious, please call or reach out to us personally with any questions or concearns regarding this Restaurant.. Lets work together New Haven This won’t be an easy or quick turn around , as you can see. Grand opening may not be until 2018, let’s see…. Thnx guys. Joy
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 14, 2017 8:33pm
Westville residents faced off with contradictory opinions about Monsanto’s planned Latin fusion restaurant Monsanto plans with seating for 128 patrons in 2,800 square feet, located within an office complex at 50 Fitch St., itself part of a sunken, 3.6-acre lot extending back from Whalley Avenue. Monsanto said she plans to serve entrees just under $25, host local artists in a gallery and bring evening foot-traffic through the neighborhood.
This Sounds like the restaurant call the Red Rooster in Harlem.
Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem
Yes I have heard of it ,(Ethiopian Chef).... Anthony Boursin Parts Unknown did a segment on that restaurant ( Red Rooster) owner/chef , pretty wife, happy people . It’s an honor to hear you think my restaurant will be similar to theirs thnx!! I hear it’s a Great place .