NEWS STAFF REPORT
Josh Hanzlian’s Providence Social restaurant at 490 Rhode Island St. boasts a “hidden gem,” according to its website – an outdoor patio.
However, its neighbors find that the gem – which offers restaurant seating and a lounge – throws off too much noise and fits badly with the surroundings.
After attempts to reach a compromise with Hanzlian, the neighbors asked Buffalo’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday to rule the patio as improper for an area zoned to require that all business be conducted inside a building.
The board members did just that, even though Hanzlian told them that the patio accounts for nearly all his business during the summer months.
“He has to close the patio and everything has to be wholly contained inside,” the Rev. James A. Lewis III, chairman of the board, said after the panel voted unanimously to enforce the zoning law and deny Hanzlian’s request to continue operating the patio.
“It was a huge part of my business plan when I opened the establishment,” Hanzlian said later. But he was unclear about what he might do to address the financial impact from the board’s decision, aside from cutting the hours of many of his workers.
In the long term, he mentioned perhaps covering the space so it could be considered enclosed seating, or using it for additional parking. He also mentioned talking further with the neighbors.
The decision could propel a new round of talks between Hanzlian, the neighbors and Common Council Member David A. Rivera of the Niagara District. Rivera, whose district includes the neighborhood around the restaurant, formerly known as Prime 490, sided with the residents after witnessing the failed efforts to strike an accord.
“Initially, they wanted to work with the owner of the business,” Rivera said before the zoning board met Wednesday afternoon. “But there were some conflicts there. I sympathize with the residents.
“I sat through the meetings, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with the tone of the meeting, the attitudes. And unfortunately, there was very little trust for the owner simply because he started doing some work without permits.”
Laura Silverman’s house at 484 Rhode Island is 5 feet from Providence Social’s patio, and the noise from patrons keeps her family, which includes a 3-year-old boy, awake long into the night, she told board members.
She said the patio is twice as big as the one operated by Providence Social’s predecessor, Prime 490, and is bigger than any other bar/restaurant patio on the street.
Further, she said that when neighbors talked with Hanzlian about the noise, he suggested that they keep their windows closed by asking if they had never heard of air conditioning.
Hanzlian later told the board that he was actually offering to install air conditioning in the Silverman house. He added that he would be willing to buy the residence if she ever chose to sell and could not get a satisfactory price because of the business next door.
He said he will often ask Providence Social’s guests to quiet down when they become too loud. And he said he felt he was mistreated by the neighbors.
The complaints were not confined to Silverman’s, however. More than 20 neighbors showed up at City Hall on Wednesday in a display of resolve that something had to be done about Providence Social’s patio.
And something was.