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Hot Seats: East Norwalk Burger War [Update]

Nearby restaurants clash over zoning restrictions—concerning a dozen stools—but what’s their real beef?

Update 11:59 a.m.:

David Marcus, who writes the "Livable Norwalk" blog, has referred to this dispute in a blog post now published as an opinion article on Norwalk Patch, Marcus says the regulation itself is causing a worse problem than the one it was meant to solve.

Update 11:33 a.m., Tuesday:

Andrew Scarella, an Internet marketing consultant, has started a petition on his blog asking that Norwalk officials allow seats at Beach Burger.

"Please sign my petition to tell the city of Norwalk to bring back the chairs and prevent this business from relocating," Scarella wrote.

So far, the petition has 17 names and four other, anonymous comments.

Original article, Monday:

When you walk into nowadays, you might notice that something is missing.  No it’s not the pickle on your burger—it’s the chairs. 

A notice posted on Beach Burger’s counter by owner Anthony Luciani addresses the situation:

“You may have noticed that our stools are missing and there is no where [sic] to sit. Unfortunately, we were forced by the City of Norwalk and our local competitors, more specifically, Overton’s and Harbor Lights, to remove our seating or risk being fined up to $2,500!

"Owners of Overton’s and Harbor Lights have been making daily complaints to the City of Norwalk since we opened our doors in April. Apparently, they can not handle the competition.”

The post continues: “Even though we have our two legal parking spaces, even though we have plenty of street parking, even though we have extra parking at Mr. Frosty’s, we are still forced to remove our seats.”

Zoning

According to Luciani, the zoning issue centers around the fact that Beach Burger originally received zoning as a take-out restaurant, not a full-service restaurant with seating for patrons.

“To be classified as a full-service restaurant, we are required to have two legal parking spaces, which we have," Luciani said. "Street parking doesn’t count. The parking lot at Mr. Frosty’s, which I also own, doesn’t count.”

The seating in question is a counter roughly 25 feet long that stretches across the plate glass interior of the restaurant and about a dozen stools where customers can sit and enjoy their meal. While the counter remains, the stools have been removed.  

Luciani says that about two weeks ago, when he received the notice from the city attorney stating that the seating had to be removed, he immediately complied, and called the zoning inspector for an inspection.

The restaurant owner says he's filing a request to have the zoning changed to permit a full service restaurant and have his two parking spaces in the rear of his building documented.

“I’ve been in contact with the Planning and Zoning Director Mike Greene and we are going to schedule a meeting to get this worked out,” Luciani says. Greene could not be reached for comment.

Complaints

Patch asked Overton’s and owner, Mike Gavrielidis, if he was aware of the post inside Beach Burger accusing him of being responsible for the seating being removed.

"He’s blaming me for his business being bad?" Gavrielidis chuckled, "I can’t make them remove the chairs. The city did that."

When asked if he filed complaints against Beach Burger, Gavrielidis declined to comment, suggesting that we speak to his attorney, Earl Ormond of Trumbull.

Ormond said the Gavrielidis family had legitimate concerns over the parking situation, and that’s what prompted the complaints.

He said the family has no issue with the opening of Beach Burger, and wishes them success, but felt that it was important to have clarity on the parking and zoning issues as they apply to everyone in the community.

Luciani says that Gavrielidis has been filing complaints against him since he opened in April and believes that the competition from another restaurant is really the issue at hand, not the number of parking spaces or the zoning issue.

“We are three different restaurants. We provide a gourmet burger; we have a different price point and a different atmosphere. There is room for everybody.” 

Business

Prior to the zoning-compliance issue, Luciani says that business was very good, but he acknowledges there's been a slowdown since the seating restriction has been enforced.

“Business was great during the summer but has been getting slower each day," he said. "People drive by and it looks like we’re empty—they think we’re closed.”

If business keeps up this way, Luciani may have to close Beach Burger and relocate.

“In the summer I employ 20-30 people—that’s a lot of jobs. If we don’t get our seating back, we’re going to be forced to close and move out of Norwalk.”

Editor's note: The time stamp on this article was originally 5:55 a.m. It was changed for layout purposes on the Norwalk Patch homepage.

Greg October 17, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Jabster I agree totally. The burgers are far better. But the reporter and most of you fail to see the big picture. Say you could somehow sit 100 people in beach burger. Where do they PARK? They end up parking at harbor lights and Overtons. If you supported the area you would see this. As I admited doing myself.
Jayinnorwalk October 17, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Greg, I also see your point. But the thing is the beach burger doesn't have 100 seats they have like 10. How much parking is needed for that? There's some in the back of the building, some on the side street, some on the street in front, and there's parking in the Frostys lot! I do see your point about the rules and how parking can affect other businesses..but how far can the city take the rules? Theres plenty of parking to support Mr Frostys And The beach burger. Should you need 40 spots for 10 seats? I think the 15-20 they have should be sufficient. Beach burger isn't asking for 100 seats just 10 or 12.
Mark October 17, 2011 at 10:58 PM
There has been nothing but competition between the two. Honestly let zoning come out and see the two parking spots, and be done with this. There is no need for people to be slandering anyone. Beach burger is a nice addition to a dying cities old timer places. Overton's was great with the old owners, and it just went down hill ever since it was sold. But that is my opinion and no one elses.
Greg October 17, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Jayinnorwalk your also right. So why didn't he get the permit for full service restaurant use again? That should be the title of the article. But sounds like there are other factors we are not hearing about also. I support both businesses but I forsee my car being booted or towed in the near future if I park where I'm not "allowed" to.
Jabster October 17, 2011 at 11:12 PM
You are right, Mark. I remember the original Overton's when the food was fantastic. Too bad the new owner couldn't keep it the same way. It also reminds me back when LaLa's Drive-In was taken over by Nick's Place on Gregory Blvd. What a shame that they ruined that place. Does anyone out there remember LaLa's?
Jayinnorwalk October 17, 2011 at 11:18 PM
There's obviously facts that are not being stated. We will just have to wait and see how it plays out. If the Beach Burger has everything required to become a full service permit then it should be no problem! It will work out I'm sure....most likely a misunderstanding that got taken out of control. I would bet it becomes much harder to fix something once a complaint is made to the zoning office, which is why this is probably taking so long in the first place. Im sure the zoning department doesn't want to issue any "new" permit until they are 100 percent sure it won't backfire on them, especially when the complaints are being made by gavrilidies lawyers.
William October 17, 2011 at 11:34 PM
@Maria. I could not agree with you more. Maybe Ann Quasarono can do some real reporting about our drug addict city officials and stop with the burger wars! But since I read the article I'll give my opinion. Both businesses will make it hard for us. So in the end we will be forced to support other businesses.
Amanda October 17, 2011 at 11:34 PM
The facts are as follows: Luciani was in clear violation of Norwalk's zoning laws. Luciani admits fault by acknowledging knowledge of these rules and regulations and still pursued and received a permit to operate as a take out restaurant. However, Beach Burger disregarded the rules,(apparently they don't apply to them!) and proceeded to operate as a full service establishment. The Gavrielidis family has no control over the City of Norwalk, Planning and Zoning or any of its officials. Mr Luciani is pointing fingers in the wrong direction. Do your homework before you open up a "restaurant", kid!!
Patrice October 17, 2011 at 11:50 PM
A. Gardella if that's true. (allowing the patrons of the cream shop to use their restaurants parking space) then mr Luciani is a fool for trying to step on their toes and open a burger joint right near them. Yes it's a free country but talk about ungrateful. Wow. Well if he is denied full service resturant permit. Maybe all these supporters of his will allow his customers to park at their homes and shuttle them to beach burger. Since they can't see that when you seat people you need ample parking so your competitors don't have to deal with what you lack.
David Gurliacci (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 12:15 AM
I removed A. Gardella's comment because it made very negative statements alleging facts about one of the restaurant owners that I couldn't confirm.
Someone who has a life October 18, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Everyone on this web site should get a life!
Someone who has a life October 18, 2011 at 12:19 AM
I also think the creator of this site should watch what is said against both businesses. I bet half of this isn't true and is now damaging reputations of both resturaunts. This isn't media, it's Internet trolling.
David Gurliacci (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Hey Someone: Everyone on this website is leading a rich, fulfilling, stupendous life by virtue of commenting on this website. I'm removing any comment I see that is "defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive," (quote from our terms of use) and I've removed at least three from this thread so far. (Robust criticism is welcome.) Everybody please abide by the terms of use. Here's a link for anybody who would like to review them: http://norwalk.patch.com/terms
Patrice October 18, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Yes it's trolling and seems David only deleted the comments that didn't agree with his position. David we see what side you've taken.
Jayinnorwalk October 18, 2011 at 12:58 AM
It's obvious that many of these comments are probably coming direct from the harbor lights/Overtons crew. @patrice, you shouldn't always believe everything you hear, which is why David took the comment down. It's not fair for either business to have to deal with negative accusations that are possibly not true. And the comments about the beach burger disregarding city rules...where does that come from? The article is about them fighting to get the permit they say they have the requirements for. How is this disregarding rules? Disregarding rules would be if the seating was still in use at beach burger while this is all going on. Disregarding rules would be leaving the seats and not doing anything about it! But instead, they removed them, to show they knew something needed to be fixed before the seating could legally be allowed. That sounds like following the rules to me. Let's Relax, and let the city do their work to determine what's right and what's wrong. We will have answers soon enough.
Amanda October 18, 2011 at 01:13 AM
Hey David, What were the negative comments that A.Gardella made that you couldn't confirm? It's a shame that you don't respect unbiased reporting. The purpose of a publication like this is to hear all sides of a story that might not be portrayed by all angles. @jayinnorwalk - Luciani disregarded the rules the second he provided seating to those who patron his establishment. Once he receives approval for a full restaurant permit, then he can reinstate his seating.
David Marcus October 18, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Many commenters here have expressed outrage that customers are parking at one establishment while patronizing the other. This behavior is common anywhere in the world where two businesses are close together. It's nothing special about Overton's and Mr Frosty's. Personally, I don't see what the big deal is, however if either of the business owners are extremely bothered by it, they have two options: They could enlist a towing company to strictly enforce their parking-for-customers-only rules or they could charge non-customers for the right to park in their lot. (Those are the suggestions of a parking policy blog: http://www.reinventingparking.org/2011/07/whos-afraid-of-spillover-bogey.html) Probably, they should just take a deep breath.
David Gurliacci (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 01:26 AM
A. Gardella made statements about past actions of the owner of Burger Bar. You realize that I can't specify what they were. I can't allow comments that violate the terms of use.
sono king October 18, 2011 at 01:26 AM
I think this has gone way out of control. Shame on you Norwalk Patch for allowing such negative comments to be posted. First of all this story should have not even been labeled "Burger War".
OLDTIMER October 18, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Beach Burger and Harbor lights are hardly competitors. Beach Burger and Overton's may be, but there is plenty of business for both. Long before luciani renovated the place and called it beach burger, other owners had seating with no problems for years. It is hard to understand why he even needed a new zoning permit for his business, carrying on what had been the practice there for a long time. Prior owners even had outside seating on benches on a concrete step a little above sidewalk level and he was told, he says, by zoning, he could not use that space because they call it sidewalk seating which calls for a different permit.(it is NOT on the sidewalk) It is hard to figure if zoning is giving him a hard time or if his neighbors are. A few stools in there would be nothing new for that place and would do no harm. He has plenty of parking in front, next to, and behind the building. It almost sounds personal, but zoning wouldn't do that, would they ? The food is still extraordinary, even without seating.
sono king October 18, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Ha ha ha... I see now the post must be comming from the businesses.. Good way to advertise your food anthony..lol.. But I think you have awakened a sleeping giant.
A. Gardella October 18, 2011 at 02:38 AM
I don't see how removing my comment is fair. This is so one sided and biased. I honestly believe that Overton's/Harbor Lights owners are too busy making money to even care about this thread so the comment posted above stating that its their "side" posting negative feedback is just silly. I spoke the truth and someone cannot handle it. Sad ..
A. Gardella October 18, 2011 at 02:47 AM
FYI I am a patron and what I said was a fact BECAUSE: I used to go to "Frosty's" and last year was able to park at Overton's parking lot and this year was not allowed to do that, I asked why and was given an explanation, which is why I said what I said. If any comment that does not favour Luciani will be removed then why ask readers to volunteer their feedback to begin with?! I'm done with Patch!
Anna October 18, 2011 at 03:15 AM
Apparently freedom of speech is not allowed on this article. Guess the feedback you want is for your own personal gain. Not the rights of the people. Deleting multiply comments that state facts just because you are afraid of the truth will only prove guilt.
Liliana October 18, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Hey Mr. Luciani, grow up and be a bussines man but follow the rules like a man.
Someone who has a life October 18, 2011 at 11:03 AM
Here's another fact. A. Gardella and R. Bonenfant are using fake names. I know both and they haven't been on this site. BUSTED!
Andrew Scarella October 18, 2011 at 01:27 PM
I have started a petition to bring the chairs back on my website! Show your support at http://www.andrewscarella.com
A. Gardella October 18, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Hey "Someone who has a life", you obviously dont have one lol
carol gavris October 18, 2011 at 04:42 PM
how sad that you think that the Gavrielidis Family made the City of Norwalk take the chairs from the Burger Bar - If Anthony had the proper permits then the city would not have him remove the chairs - he should just grow up and not post signs stating that the cause of the removal of his chairs is because of the Gavrielidis Family -
David Gurliacci (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Thank you for your comments, everybody. This thread is now closed.

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