The site which has been a laundromat and a smoke shop tucked away behind Main Street in New Paltz may next become something of an open-air cafe, if village planning board members and McGillicuddy’s owner Brian Keenan come to terms. Keenan, who has been the proprietor of McGillicuddy’s for some 25 years, met with board members for a pre-application review at their February 2 meeting. The restaurateur gathered feedback on the questions board members will want answered when an application is filed.
The building can be accessed through a parking area behind McGillicuddy’s and adjacent to both the village municipal lot and the one associated with 58 Main Street, and at the moment has all the character that a sea of asphalt brings to any location. Keenan has added seating for that existing restaurant as well, as authorized under pandemic-related rules, and as a consequence has had to pull dumpsters out from corners to make them more accessible to the drivers of refuse trucks. The proposal reviewed by board members would replace some of the parking with a seating area and landscaping, on the assumption that those customers who arrive in a car could instead pay to use the municipal lot.
In the same building, there are several apartments, meaning that it’s already approved as a mixed-use structure. However, there would be a special-use permit needed for this change and building inspector Cory Wirthmann advised that pinpointing the precise use would be necessary for that to move ahead. In reviewing the code, Wirthmann zeroed in on calling it a “restaurant with accessory outdoor seating,” because if it’s defined as an outdoor cafe, no one could eat inside at all. That reflects Keenan’s stated intent, to have the bulk of seating outside, with the kitchen and some portion of seating within. That guidance was offered, but board attorney Rick Golden encouraged letting the applicant decide how to frame the request.
Keenan explained to board members, “I see the future of the restaurant business being focused on outdoor dining,” which became a necessity during the present pandemic.
The six one-bedroom apartments would retain the required parking, but none would be provided for the restaurant itself. The rationale is that an ongoing shift toward a pedestrian-friendly village core means that potential patrons who drive to arrive would leave their car in a single location and partake of shopping, entertainment and other local amenities in addition to a meal under the sky. Board member Rachel Lagodka wondered about exactly how pedestrians might arrive, as the location is surrounded by parking lots, with no sidewalks or dedicated pedestrian paths from any direction. Engineer Andy Willingham acknowledged that this is a question which would have to be addressed in more detail.
Willingham also promised to save a very old tree from execution if possible, saying, “If it’s a good tree, we’ll do everything we can to save it.”
Members Denis Magee and Raquel Carrion praised Keenan for the concept, saying that it appeared to be an innovative way to address the needs of people who don’t like to cook while at the same time improving the aesthetics of a rather dreary spot in the center of the village. Keenan wants to make a “substantial investment” on that front, including a new retaining wall, roof, facade and other details to beautify the spot. It’s anticipated that the food will include “shareable appetizers,” such as tacos and tapas.