MERIDEN — The Planning Commission voted unanimously this week to grant a special permit to a local businessman who wants to open a package store in a vacant former deli and grocery store across from Meriden Superior Court.
Rajesh Patel plans to open the package store in 1,500 square feet at 57 W. Main St., also known as 63 W. Main St. Planning Department staff told commissioners that the application met all criteria for a special permit and recommended adoption.
City zoning regulations for the Transit-Oriented Development district stipulate that no package store in the district may be located within a 1,500-foot radius of another “premises used for the sale of alcoholic liquor at retail for consumption off the premises.” Assistant Planning Director Paul Dickson told commissioners that the closest package store with an active liquor permit is located just outside of a 1,500-foot radius.
Only one person commented on the special permit application during a public hearing Wednesday night before the vote. The person anonymously commented using the “Q&A” feature of the Microsoft Teams platform the city is using to conduct virtual meetings.
“This request of a liquor store in our Transit Oriented District should be denied. Especially in downtown where we are trying to attract business,” the comment read. “This is definitely not a good way to promote downtown. Next door is the Play House and people would be subjected to this clientele that would be coming and going and the courthouse across the street.”
Commission member Kevin Curry disagreed.
“If (the Castle Craig Players theater) has something and someone wants to bring liquor in … I think it works well with it,” he said.
The building at 57 W. Main St. is owned by Silver City Properties, which is headed by Ross Gulino, a member of the Planning Commission. Gulino recused himself from the vote Wednesday and left the room during the public hearing and discussion on the application.
The commission approved the permit under the condition that the package store not place signs in its window that obscure windows and that any signs must be approved by Director of Planning Renata Bertotti.
Curry agreed with the sign condition, telling Patel that he’s “not going to sell any more liquor if you have 800 signs in the window. Everybody knows what you sell.”
“I think it’s a good thing to see it and keep it clean and also for your protection, too,” Curry added.
Bertotti said her department is currently working to enforce regulations for window signs, “generally addressing package stores, small bodegas, places that tend to over advertise on their windows, which is not allowed.”
“Most businesses don’t really know that that’s not allowed, so we’re conducting informational sessions and visiting these businesses,” Bertotti said. Window signage is currently prohibited, Bertotti said, but she is working on amending the regulation to allow for a certain percentage of a window to be covered.