The Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals last week unanimously approved a special permit for Estia, a new Greek restaurant under construction on Main Street.
Owners Nicholas S. Markantonis and Catherine Markantonis have 38 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including operating Estia at Mashpee Commons. They are set to open the second Estia at the former Eastern Bank site at 117 Main Street. Their proposal went before the zoning board on September 28 and October 5.
The restaurant was called before the board for a special permit due to parking concerns. The restaurant has a proposed 194 seats, including 60 seasonal outdoor seats. With only 16 parking spaces on site, Estia fails to reach the minimum of 63 parking spaces mandated by the zoning bylaws.
Attorney Stephen O. McKenzie said Estia would be the ninth retail-to-restaurant conversion on Main Street, following Bangkok Thai Cuisine, the Bear In Boots Gastropub and Añejo Mexican Bistro & Tequila Bar. They are the first required to get a special permit due to parking.
“Not any one of those properties had been required to come before this board for a change of use and increase in parking,” Mr. McKenzie said. “There are 16 spaces on this site, more than any other restaurant on Main Street.”
He argued the existing public parking is enough to support the restaurant. Members of the appeals board generally agreed with this assertion.
“This doesn’t bother me at all,” Paul Murphy said. “I’ve never had to go home and say, ‘I couldn’t find a space, so I had to go home.’ Basic experience says this will all work out.”
However, Peter French, representing the neighboring St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, expressed concern about restaurant parking.
“People will, undoubtedly, find their way into our parking lot, despite our best efforts to keep them out,” Mr. French said.
Mr. McKenzie said they would be willing to provide additional screening between the church and restaurant parking lot. He presented this screening at the October 5 meeting.
“We’ve added a hedge. We put a row of high arborvitaes screening the property from the St. Barnabas Church property,” Mr. McKenzie said.
They will plant fully grown hedges rather than saplings, as their aim is to have adequate screening for the church as soon as possible.
“The hedge row makes a lot of sense,” associate zoning board member Robert B. Dugan said.
At the September 28 meeting, Kimberly A. Bielan asked the applicant to consider reducing the number of seats. Mr. McKenzie said the they would like to remain at 194 seats at the October 5 meeting, noting that number was reduced from an initial proposal of 212 seats. With 134 interior seats, Estia is approximately the same size as La Cucina Sul Mare and smaller than Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub & Restaurant and The Quarterdeck.
“It is similar to other restaurants you have in town,” Mr. McKenzie said. “We would like to keep the same seating we have.”
The board allowed this, conditioning their approval on the restaurant having a maximum of 194 seats. Other conditions included building the restaurant according to the presented plans; installing a traffic bollard (a short vertical post) near an easement on the site; and including a sign at the front of the parking lot stating the lot is for restaurant customers only.