Changes to the in downtown Hamilton will make the restaurant lighter and brighter, owner Joe Leone told the Hamilton Planning Board on Tuesday night.
The and Leone said he expects it to reopen in September.
The Planning Board's review of the renovations, which it heard on Tuesday night, comes under a provision in the zoning bylaw called abbreviated site plan review because the restaurant’s seating area will increase by 27 square feet, although 9 square feet will go towards a new entrance area. No new seats will be added.
Leone said he had hoped to reopen sooner than September except that he has to wait until the July 11 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting for it to hear the plans for changes to the entrance. The Planning Board said it supports the proposed changes.
“I’m going to replace the current entrance with glass,” Leone said on Tuesday. The stairs along the front of the building will be removed and more seating will be placed along the window. The entrance will be moved to an existing entrance on the side, which will be enlarged.
New hardwood floors, bar and bathrooms are also being installed.
“Everything will be brand new” Leone said. In addition, a gas-fired fire pit will be installed in the middle of the opened-up dining area, he said.
Many diners felt the restaurant was dark and closed in, Leone said, and the changes will open it up and make it feel more casual.
“The room is going to be much lighter, brighter,” he said.
The last time the restaurant underwent changes was 2001, was it given permission to expand from 82 seats to 101 seats in 2001.
While the Planning Board suggested that more parking – 10 spaces - be required as part of the additional seats, the ZBA determined that the Black Cow was grandfathered and no new parking was required.
“He clearly has permission for 101 (seats),” board member Evelyn Shuman said after reading the ZBA decision from 11 years ago.
The Planning Board recommendation at that time was that one new parking space be added for every three new restaurant seats.
“We made a recommendation and they chose to ignore it,” said board member Claudia Woods.
Leone said he has 8-10 spaces in the rear parking lot for the restaurant, and asks employees to find their own parking away from the restaurant. He said he has never received a complaint about parking from a customer and has not received a complaint from a neighbor in many years.
Leone also told the board he does not have an agreement to allow customers to park at across the street. Mike’s owner, Mike Holland, was looking on during the hearing.
At a previous Planning Board hearing, Holland said Black Cow restaurant patrons , when it is closed, but it will not be possible anymore because there are additional cars on Mike’s lot.
Board member Joe Orlando said the fact that restaurant patrons have parked at Mike’s seemed to be an “informal agreement to be good neighbors” and nothing formal.