New Paltz’s Bangkok Café wants to be a bar

Bangkok Cafe wants to extend its hours to become a bar/tavern. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Owners of Bangkok Cafe, at 119 Main Street in New Paltz, are petitioning to have the property’s special-use permit changed from restaurant to bar. That would mean later hours and louder music, which doesn’t thrill people who live close by. On the other hand, building owner Dino Toscani says that the change is a formality, acknowledging what’s been happening at the site for over 20 years.

Toscani appeared on behalf of the cafe’s owner, explaining that the language barrier was proving challenging. He told New Paltz Planning Board members last week that number 119 “has been in my family for 48 years,” originally as the much-beloved Toscani & Sons Deli. It’s been run as a night club since 1995 complete with a 4 a.m. closing time, Toscani said: “Apparently, the rules have changed.” He maintained that in that time, “no violations” have occurred.


Neighbor Christine Marmo was clear that she wasn’t interested in Bangkok Cafe being open any later. “I’m not anti-business, and I’m not anti-development,” she said, but amplified music and a 4 a.m. closing time would not work well with a residential neighborhood adjacent.

Alison Nash reminded Planning Board members of the “history of non-compliance” with conditions imposed on businesses at 119 Main Street. No special use permit could be granted if the use were deemed noisier, she said, or more objectionable. Shifting Bangkok Cafe from restaurant to bar would be both, in her view.

Neighbors who spoke during public comment also raised issues with another of Toscani’s properties, 127 Main Street, but he assured board members that those living near that building are “happy now.” That’s in contrast to his own mood, apparently; he said, “I’m not a happy camper to be here” at the meeting. Essentially, his position was that while he was willing to support a change of use for his tenant, bar is the use that’s actually been in place since before the turn of the century. That tenant, Toscani noted, “pays a lot of rent.”

The request is in fact based on village building inspector Cory Wirthmann determining that Bangkok Cafe is in fact operating as a restaurant, and not based on what’s happened in the building in the past. Like Toscani himself, Wirthmann is a lifelong resident of New Paltz. Per Toscani, the last business there — Grimaldi’s — had that late-night permission, but during the transition between the sudden closure of the fancy pizzeria and the opening of the Thai restaurant, the special use permit was allowed to expire. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here,” Toscani said.

When it got down to discussing the technical aspects, Toscani made assurances that all would be addressed. A second exit needs to be put in: “My guy [engineer Jordan Valdine] will take care of it. We didn’t realize it was a problem.” The kitchen must be open whenever alcohol is being served: “We’ll keep it open for that.”

Alternate Planning Board member Tom Rocco, who served on the Planning Board ten years ago when Toscani was seeking to resolve issues with number 127 and other properties, pressed on that point about the kitchen remaining open. Toscani said that food would be available “through a kitchen” and promised that the rules would be complied with “100 percent.” He later confirmed that staff members at the cafe would “serve food through a kitchen.”

A hearing on the application will be opened August 21.