Connecticut’s first cat cafe is a step closer to opening in Westville Village center now that the Board of Zoning Appeals granted its owners a special exception Tuesday night.
Mew Haven Cat Cafe owners Michael and Angela Pullo were given that green light after a short public hearing at 200 Orange St., where those in favor of the first-of-its-kind venture for the state and the city showed their support.
The couple gathered approximately 1,000 signatures in support of opening their hybrid coffee shop/cat shelter at 904 Whalley Ave. No one testified in opposition of the cafe.
The Pullos already have a separate takeout coffee shop. Now they will move forward with building out the storefront, which was for many years an optician’s office and formerly a campaign headquarters for Mayor Toni Harp, to add more space for the 12 cats that will call the space home until they are adopted. (Read more about the cat cafe here and here.)
“We’re really excited to help cats get adopted,” Angela Pullo told board members Tuesday. The cats will come from a shelter in North Haven called The Animal Haven, which will handle the adoptions. They’re expected to be on site when the expanded storefront opens sometime in August.
Thea Buxbaum, who represented 904 Whalley owner ArLow LLC, said people love cats and she can envision people relaxing with the cats before and after work. Though she’s allergic to cats, she’s willing to take allergy medications to hang out with the cats, she said.
She said the cat cafe “is one of those creative uses that you would want cities to have and cities to have bragging rights for because it’s just unique enough and quirky enough that it gets people attention.”
Steve Fontana, a city deputy director of economic development, said he’d had the chance to check out a cat cafe in Charleston, S.C. in January. He came away impressed.
“I think this is something that really is spreading across the country,” he said. “What I find really neat about this ... is they said they did a lot of research and when they looked at Connecticut there was only one place they thought this could work. And they decided on New Haven.
“We pride ourselves on doing things first and the best,” he added. “I think that this is a unique idea and I applaud them for embracing New Haven and the shelter in my hometown of North Haven.”
Mew Haven’s request for a special exception to operate was the first test of the new zoning regulations for the Westville Village District, which were created through a two-year project spearheaded by the Westville Renaissance Alliance (WVRA) in collaboration with the Yale Law School Community and Economic Development Clinic. The new zoning rules were designed to attract denser, less car-dependent development.
“The whole neighborhood is excited about this,” Lizzy Donius, of WVRA, said. “We can’t wait for the cats to come.”
Yale Heads To City Plan
The BZA also heard a request from Yale University Tuesday for a special exception for parking requirements for a retail space next door to the new L.L. Bean store on 272-310 Elm St. The board will decide in September whether to grant that request after it receives a recommendation from the City Plan Commission.
Yale needs a special exception because of a modification of the design of the new building in the Broadway shopping district that changed the use for approximately 690 gross square feet of additional space on the second floor. (Read more here.)
The university had previously been granted an exception that allowed it to have zero onsite parking where originally 101 spaces would have been required. Parking requirements have since been amended by the city and the new standard requires 50 spaces. The change of use would require an additional two parking spaces and the university needs relief to provide no additional parking spaces.