By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — A planned restaurant at 190 Main St. got permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday to enclose an outdoor dining area and make another COVID-era outdoor area nicer.

The plan was heard earlier this year by the Architectural Review Board, which in March asked the applicants for changes. In April, the board reviewed tweaks to the plan for 190 Main St., and, with some caveats, unanimously endorsed the application.

The space, in the same corner center at Avery Place as Joe’s Pizza, was last home to the restaurant 190 Main, which closed early last year.

The application by WHA Equities Corp. also sought to expand the second-level kitchen and add two dormers. As far as restaurant spaces go, the space is unusual, with a kitchen on the second floor.

A presentation by the applicants on Tuesday said a lot of the problems that come along with that will be remedied. On the to-do list is fixing a saggy roof, cleaning up the back area where disused gear from the last operation is piled, improving a walk-in refrigerator and enclosing some utilities in a closet.

“We propose to address the lack of maintenance and to patch and repair the various existing conditions around the building,” the application reads. “The goal is to create a functioning and charming restaurant that will serve the community for years to come.”

For what is now a terrace outdoor dining area, operable screens and insulated storm windows would be added, making it a year-round dining area.

The project needed variances for setbacks, parking and outdoor dining.

Board members liked the designs, and though there was some discussion about downtown parking issues, it seemed they agreed that stretch of Main Street wasn’t as much of a problem.

During the ZBA’s work session, Chairman Jim Ezzes noted of the outdoor dining, “it’s already here, it’s already there.”

“I think what they’ve done is absolutely beautiful,” he said of the plans. “That’s been a part of town that has struggled for decades. Except for expanding the building with dormers and that little bump-out for the hot water heater and stuff like that, they’re not asking for anything that’s already there.”

“The building was built in 1852,” noted member Liz Wong. “Before there were zoning regulations and parking, and, as you said, parking was sufficient for a long time.”

She said she envisioned people eating there at dinner time, after most of the shoppers were done. She also said the upstairs windows in the kitchen should be operational, providing another means of egress.

“If they’re going to use it as a restaurant, they really do need to do something to bring that kitchen area up to code,” said member Joe Scordato.

“I agree with Liz with regard to the second area of egress,” he said. “I think those windows in the front should be operational so that you could go out of the kitchen if, God forbid, there’s a fire blocking the staircase.”

“If you look at that kitchen currently, I’m amazed they were able to cook anything in there safely,” he said.

“I’m excited, I think it’s enhanced design, it’s gonna kind of boost that area and help the resiliency and the adaptability of that restaurant in that part of the street,” said member Michelle Hobson. “Really beautifully done.”

Member Josh Newman had lingering concerns about parking, and noted the new eatery would likely be open during lunch not just dinner.

“It’s not ideal, but I think it could work,” he concluded.   

The variance was granted unanimously.

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 36 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.