By Linda Boker-Angelo
Plans for a new pub-style family restaurant on Burlington Street are underway.
Shawn Nachurski and David McDonough, owners of Bridges Real Estate, L.L.C., appeared before the Gloucester City Planning Board last week with plans to transform the former go-go bar known as Billy's Place into an Irish pub-style family restaurant.
Nachurski outlined plans to renovate and expand the building at 157 Burlington Street, which was built in the 1800s.
He said he envisioned a gathering place similar to the pubs in Ireland, where generations of families can gather with their children to share a good meal, hear some traditional Irish music, and socialize with their fellow community members.
Also, there will be an upscale bar and restaurant on the first floor, with additional seating planned for the second floor.
Local attorney Charles Wigginton, who represented the applicants, said that Bridges had the opportunity to purchase the property directly behind Billy's Place, on Ridge Street, which will be converted to a parking lot.
He said this would triple the number of parking spaces available, from the 10 currently available to 36, although City ordinance would require approximately 57 spaces.
Several neighboring property owners expressed concerns about the need for additional parking spaces that would be created by the new establishment, which Nachurski estimated would hold about 109 patrons.
Diane Sloan, who owns property across the street from the former go-go bar, said she felt the proposed use did not meet the criteria needed to obtain a variance for the planned expansion.
She said any benefits were far outweighed by the negative impact created by the need for more parking spaces and the expansion of a "tavern."
After hearing considerable testimony, Board members voted to approve the variance allowing Bridges to expand the building and accepting the 36 parking spots in lieu of the required 57.
Nachurski said, pending approvals, he hopes to begin work on the site in September and have the restaurant open for next summer.
Wigginton was pleased with the board's decision. "Replacing the go-go bar with an upscale, family-style restaurant will certainly be an improvement that will benefit the community."
He added that the developers were also fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase the additional lot for parking.
"I've been doing Planning Board applications in this town for 15 years," Wigginton said, "And I've never had one where the applicants were able to triple the amount of existing parking space available."
The Board reserved decision as to whether a site plan waiver would be granted as the project progresses.
Plans were also approved to convert a six-bay self-serve car wash on Route 130 to an automatic carwash.
Car wash owner Judd Corl said he felt local senior citizens and disabled residents, who might otherwise have a problem cleaning their own vehicle, could benefit from the auto wash. He said currently people must go to Westville or Mount Ephraim for an automatic car wash.
He said he has been in the car wash business since 1977, and has owned the Route 130 facility for seven years.
He anticipates having a maximum of two employees and one delivery truck per month to drop off soap and vending supplies. The auto wash would be set to handle 60 cars per hour.
Cumberland Street resident Barbara Daley complimented Corl on his plans, stating that many disabled residents are unable to wash and rinse their cars.
Historic Preservation Commission Chairman David Munn presented an application for the installation of a six-foot fence in the 200 block of Mercer Street. The property owner wanted to protect his large dog from the taunts of nearby children.
The board also approved that application.
The next meeting of the Gloucester City Planning Board will be at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 15, in City Hall, 313 Monmouth St.