Proposed downtown Bennington taproom could feature outdoor seating
BENNINGTON — Plans for the former Carmody's building on Main Street are coming together, and owner Mike Madison came before the Select Board on Monday with a proposal for outdoor seating.
The new business will be called the 421 Taproom, and Madison hopes it will open next spring. He was joined at the meeting by architect Geoffrey Metcalfe of Keefe and Wesner Architects of North Bennington, who presented a preliminary design for the project. With the board's approval, Madison would pay to extend the sidewalk into the street, eliminating three parking spaces in front of the taproom and the Bennington Banner.
"What we're proposing here is an alteration to the sidewalk that's existing," said Metcalfe, "in order to allow them to place an accessible and usable patio area for outdoor seating and the like."
The new design for the building has been approved by the town's development review board, and will include a glass garage door that can be opened in nice weather. The seating area will be leveled, as the sidewalk slopes between four and eight inches downward in front of the property, and it will be fenced off from the rest of the sidewalk in order to prevent tripping. All of the improvements will be paid for by Madison.
Beyond the fenced area, which will extend about 12.5 feet off the front of the building, there will be 5 feet of concrete sidewalk and about 3 feet of brick for the pedestrian walkway. There will be about 12-16 seats outside, from the spring through the fall.
Metcalfe said that lighting on the building itself and from the nearby street lamp should be enough to illuminate the outdoor dining area.
Madison is co-owner of Madison's Brewing Company, which is located across the street from the Taproom. He purchased the former Carmody's property in 2014, nearly two years after it closed, for $240,000. The Madison family has owned Madison's since 1996, and previously owned the TasteeFreeze on North Street from 1961 to 2008.
Metcalfe said there is room for the town's sidewalk plow to navigate around the outdoor seating area, but noted that they could not take down the fencing in the winter, as it would remain a tripping hazard.
Board member Donald Campbell called the project "fun and visionary," but worried that the town could be held liable if a chunk of ice from the plow damaged the outdoor seating area. Metcalfe said Bennington Highway Superintendent R.J. Jolly had given the project his full blessing.
According to Town Manager Stu Hurd, the Bennington Banner owns the alley between the two buildings, but he said the town holds an easement, and maintains the alley and installed the lighting. That is not projected to change.
"Generally, when we issue a license for people to have seating on the sidewalk," said Hurd, "if you go up and down Main Street now, more and more of the food industry people are serving outside, all of those people have a license agreement with the town, where they carry the liability for anything that happens to their diners or to their waiters as they're serving out there. In this particular case, it's going to be a little more formal than that because it is going to be cordoned off, essentially. That is as much a safety precaution as it as an alcohol license precaution."
Hurd said the town is still working on a license agreement that is similar to the one signed by other businesses. He said there could be a rental fee, as the Taproom will have permanent access to the space. He said vendor spots are currently rented out in a similar manner. "We're pretty comfortable with an understanding of what they hope to achieve and how it will work for us," he said.
The board will hold a second hearing on the issue at its next meeting, where board members hope to hear from adjoining property owners.
"We do have public parking," said board Chairman Tom Jacobs, who said that stores in downtowns shouldn't expect to have parking directly in front of their buildings. "I think activity you see down there, the more benefit there would be for each of the individual stores that might not have parking right in front of their business. I'm hoping the business owners feel the same way."
Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.
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