One by one, residents approached the microphone at the June 26 Zoning Board meeting and lauded the food, the drinks, and the ambiance at The Peacock Inn. And one by one, each resident voiced vehement opposition to allowing that same restaurant to add outdoor seating.
After nearly two hours of discussion the board voted unanimously to deny The Peacock Inn the variance it sought to allow for outdoor seating. The restaurant had hoped to add an 885-square-foot patio at the side and rear of the property that would accommodate 10 tables, or 40 diners.
The variance was required because the restaurant and hotel is operating in a residential zone, which constitutes a non-conforming use. Per zoning officer Derek Bridger, the addition of outdoor seating is an addition to that use. By law, then, the restaurant must establish that such a change could occur “without substantial detriment to the public good,” in particular with regard to effects on neighboring properties. (A second set of variances, related to two storage sheds installed at the rear of the property, was approved.)
This is not the first time the restaurant has clashed with its neighbors on Boudinot Street and Morven Place. Residents there have frequently voiced concerns about the Inn’s valet parking practices and issues with noisy garbage collections at early morning hours.
Valet parking concerns have been somewhat alleviated thanks to an agreement with the YMCA that allows the restaurant to park up to 30 cars in its parking lot, but the restaurant cannot stop patrons from self-parking on the otherwise quiet side streets.
This time, it was worries about noise that had the neighbors lined up at the podium to speak. Residents from six different homes on Boudinot and Morven noted that already, they could hear conversations among workers outside the restaurant and the slamming of car doors in the driveway. The addition of 40 people sitting outside through a full meal and the associated noise — clanging dishes, loud chatter — was a step too far.
Michael Gale, property manager for the ownership team behind the Inn, cited restaurant and hotel patrons’ requests for outdoor seating as evidence of demand for it. He tried to assuage concerns about noise and parking, indicating that the restaurant closed at 9 p.m., and that the new seating would be considered an alternate rather than an addition to indoor seating, not resulting in an increase in the total number of diners each day.
In his closing remarks, Marc Citron, an attorney from law firm Saul Ewing representing The Peacock Inn, noted “This is not the Ivy Inn. I’ve never seen anybody walking outside drunk, and I too frequent The Peacock Inn. The present owner has made the yeoman’s effort to try to address to neighbors’ concerns.”
But it wasn’t enough, and the restaurant’s application was denied.
In contrast, Kristine’s, the new restaurant by Jack Morrison scheduled to open later this summer adjacent to Witherspoon Grill, the ordinance approving its plan to include outdoor seating for 24 on Hinds Plaza was unanimously approved by Princeton Council at its August 5 meeting.