This sign for Sakura restaurant has stood next to the eatery at 680 Post Road East for more than four decades, but has to be moved since the state Department of Transportation has claimed the sign’s original location for a road improvement project.
This sign for Sakura restaurant has stood next to the eatery at 680 Post Road East for more than four decades, but has to be moved since the state Department of Transportation claimed the sign’s original location for a road improvement project. / File photo

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — State bureaucracy hasn’t been kind to one of the town’s oldest restaurants, but local government isn’t adding to its woes.

Sakura, a Japanese restaurant on Post Road East for 41 years, recently lost some land to a state Department of Transportation road-widening project.

And, even though the state agreed to not take down a large cherry tree in front of the restaurant (sakura means cherry blossom), roots will likely be damaged and it might not live.

This week, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted approval for the restaurant to return its namesake sign, and a smaller directional sign for parking, to what’s left of the restaurant’s roadside land.

“In widening Post Road East they have taken the area where both signs are located,” said Frank Murphy, a lawyer for Klinger Properties, which owns the building.

“When the construction started [the sign] was moved by the DOT’s contractor and it’s leaning against the deck,” Murphy told the board Tuesday. 

“That photograph shows the decorative sign that’s been on the property for 41 years,” he said. “It’s an attractive sign that was designed specifically for this restaurant.”

Last month, the Architectural Review Board approved the plan to return the signs to the front.

Regarding the large cherry tree, “It’s doubtful it can be preserved,” Murphy told the board.

Board Chairman Jim Ezzes called Sakura’s situation “so unfortunate.”

“… I want to help these guys,” he added.

He said the project took a conforming piece of property and made it non-conforming.

“You need signage for safety,” member Liz Wong said. “You need to know where the building is.”

“I think of any application I’ve ever seen, it’s probably the one that’s single-most clear for hardship and need,” said member Josh Newman. 

“If it wasn’t for the state doing their work, Sakura wouldn’t be here,” he said.

“It’s going to look like Exit 14 in Norwalk,” Ezzes said of the tree removals. “It’s really too bad.”

The vote was unanimous.

Thane Grauel, executive editor, grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond more than three decades. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.