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Phil’s has community support

February 17, 2012

Photo by Kathleen McKiernan Kenneth and Carl Tetzner, owners of Phil’s Restaurant wait for the Zoning Board to make a decision on their request for a special permit with full support from the community.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Green signs exclaiming ‘vote yes’ rattled throughout the town council chamber Wednesday night as the downtown Wakefield community poured into the town hall to support Phil’s Restaurant owners Carl and Kenneth Tetzner and the Contemporary Theater Company’s plans to revitalize Main Street. Despite the flood of support for the plans, the zoning board postponed their decision until Tuesday.

“I thought this would be the night we got an answer. We all did,” Carl Tetzner said after the board meeting.

It was the second time the board told the Tetzners and the theater to wait. Last month, Phil’s and CTC came before the board hopeful they would receive approval for three special use permits to expand its beer and wine license to full service alcohol and expand this to a proposed rooftop deck and proposed theater and receive a parking variance. Plans to bring entertainment to Wakefield through the CTC materialized in January after the theater reached a lease agreement with the Tetzners to move into the former site of the Hera Gallery at 327 Main St., Wakefield.

Yet, after William Calhoon, property owner of several building lots in Wakefield including Healy’s Newstand and Brickley’s Ice cream brought up parking concerns, the board tabled their decision to Wednesday night.

Looking for their second shot, Attorney John Kenyon came prepared for his clients. In their application, the Tetzners seek a parking variance for 19 parking spaces, which includes four spaces for the restaurant and 15 for the theater. The site holds 23 spaces of the 42 required. In total, the Tetzners were able to promise 351 parking spaces, a show of community support as various downtown merchants including Pier Cleaners, Paul Masse, Gates Insurance and the Wakefield Baptist Church offered their parking spots. The Tetzners even altered their plans for a 14 foot high bridge extending from the second floor of the restaurant to the site of the former Kiddie Kloset to match the village look. Carl Tetzner even agreed to a one year trial period.

“We are first and foremost a restaurant looking for an opportunity to have a full service liquor license,” Tetzner said.

“We don’t have an outdoor deck. In the summer, people want that. Bikers are bypassing us to go to Narragansett,” Carol Hagan McEntee, Vice President of the Town Council said. “If you don’t consider this as a plus for Wakefield, I can’t understand where you’re going.”

“There is nothing sadder than when I leave my office at 6 o’clock and the street is empty. We need to make Wakefield more of an exciting place,” Town councilman Jim O’Neill said.

Supporters argued that the theater is the missing link of a vibrant business district, adding entertainment to the restaurant and shop destination.

“It’s now going to have a theater which will be needed if we’re going to be more than a parking lot and houses,” Green Hill resident Troy West said. “We need a place where people can exchange ideas. A theater is one of the most important things a town can have.”

CTC Director Ryan Hartigan argued that of three theaters he has worked for, including theaters in Wellington, New Zealand, Indianapolis, and Newport’s Firehouse Theater, there were no parking lots.

“All of these theaters work within the community to find a reasonable solution. All those work because people took the leap,” Hartigan said.
A question of the noise level from the theater also rang loud among board members, but the community soon silenced that notion, with most stating a theater crowd is not a rowdy bunch. Carl Tetzner said the restaurant plans to have soft music ending at 11 p.m. along with alcohol service.

As the community debated parking availability, resident Alison Tarzwell broke through the clatter and spoke words that aroused applause.

“I support helping out others. It’s not all about the cars,” she said.
Standing before the plan supporters, Calhoon was once again a lone voice in his dissent.

“I’m not opposed to it. I think the theater is great. What the Tetzners have done is great. I’m concerned with the impact. We do have a lot of parking. But I just saw the tiny lot was full on a Wednesday night in February. From Arnold’s Lumbar to Kenyon’s it was all full,” Calhoon said.

Considering some businesses have quick turnaround with customers parking for 15 minutes, Calhoon worried that theater and restaurant customers may take prime spots for up to three hours leaving little space for other patrons.

While audience members shouted ‘vote tonight’ and the sound of flickering signs soon became the voice of agitation, the board, a judicial body designed to make decisions based solely on the ordinance rules, were not swayed by public pressure.

After the meeting calmed, the zoning board approved a variance and special use permit for the Matunuck Oyster Bar at 629 Succotash Road to construct a 16 foot one-quarter inch by 24 foot by three and three quarter inch addition on the north side of the restaurant, a 10 foot by 37 foot addition to the south side and to relocate a second floor addition closer to the frontline. Owner Perry Raso said the changes will be used to allow a kitchen to be built to accommodate a new hood system for the restaurant and move the space facing the road toward the water view. The zoning board’s approval comes two nights after the town council approved Monday night an expansion of the restaurant’s liquor license to serve food and beverage on the outside patio.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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February 19, 2012 by otyss, 3 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 201

Whenever I return to Wakefield, I always make sure a stop in at Phil's is included.

For me, it speaks and reflects the local feel.

Go, Phils, go!


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