Wayne Bradford has an ambitious dream to bring a vintage diner from Ellenville to the heart of the Village of New Paltz. The 209 Diner didn’t get enough traffic in Ellenville, he feels, but if he can find room to shoehorn it in on the property next to Bacchus, it could again be a sustainable business. During a pre-application review before New Paltz Village Planning Board members, Bradford discussed putting the diner — now in Kerhonkson, where he plans on refurbishing it — at 10 South Chestnut Street, State Route 208. The plans would involve demolishing both of the buildings on the lot to make room for a mixed-use three-story structure and the diner. The hair salon and tenants of the house on Chestnut would move into the new structure, which would be built first.
The diner itself would retain its iconic “209 Diner” sign. In addition to typical diner fare, it would have a bagel-baking operation in the basement.
Economics are certainly not the only arguments Bradford has been weighing — history and nostalgia also factor in. Growing up poor in Ellenville, eating at the iconic 209 Diner was a big treat. Refurbishing the diner will involve replacing the roof and windows and putting in better insulation; energy efficiency is also something that excites him about putting up a new building in the back of the lot. The original diner kitchen is in bad shape, but a new one would be attached, allowing the old to become new bathrooms, accessible in a way not contemplated in the 1950s.
Planning board members advised Bradford that parking would be a concern. He believes that on-street parking can be used to support this use, but plans on confirming that fact before submitting a formal application. Some 35 spots are needed for a diner of this size, but the proposed configuration would not have room for much more than half that many. The question of limiting hours of operation to exclude dinner did not sit well with board attorney Richard Golden, who said such restrictions are not permissible except under particular circumstances.
As with many village projects, parking and traffic are the areas of concern. Bradford would like the entrance to be on Innis Avenue, and the exit on South Chestnut Street. While it is a short street, Innis is where parents drop off and pick up students from Mountain Laurel Waldorf School. The lot already has a driveway ramp on South Chestnut, but as it is a state road, the impacts there will also likely be closely scrutinized.
Another issue likely to come up during the application process is that of the street trees Bradford planted to satisfy shade tree commissioners when he cut down a number on that property without first getting a permit. He has to keep those trees alive, even during demolition and construction, or possibly have to face off with those village officials again.
Bradford said he plans on submitting his full application in the near future.