Officials: Bar’s fire pit was in use before seeking approval
Published 2:37 pm, Wednesday, March 29, 2017
DARIEN — When it came before them more than two weeks ago, town officials had reservations about a request from Bodega Taco Bar for an outdoor fire pit. What they didn’t know was that a pit behind the Post Road restaurant was already in use.
“What I observed behind Upper Crust Bagel was apparently a fire pit in operation,” Selectman Marc Thorne said at a Monday, March 27 meeting of the Board of Selectmen. “There’s a wood stack, there’s fresh ashes, there’s a fire extinguisher there, which is a good thing. So it is in operation.”
According to Connor Grady, a manager at Bodega Taco Bar, the fire pit has been in use since September, when the weather started turning.
“We open it up for the fall and winter season, when it gets to the point when it’s not really nice to sit outside,” Grady said. The pit will likely be replaced with patio tables in the coming months, Grady said, as the weather starts to warm.
The question of the fire pit came before the Board of Selectmen after Fire Marshal Robert Buch conducted a February inspection of the outdoor area to see if it was safe for a fire pit. In a Feb. 28 letter from Buch, a checklist of safety precautions — including proper disposal of ashes and minimum distance from structures — were laid out that the restaurant needed to meet in order for the use to be approved by his office.
The selectmen were also concerned, citing a potential inability to monitor the pit and its proximity to a garbage receptical at their March 13.
However, according to an email sent to town officials by Town Administrator Kate Buch on behalf of Bodega co-owner Mario Fontana, each night “Fire Tender” duty is assigned to the waiter serving the section of the restaurant closest to the fire pit.
“This waiter serves the communal table in the back of the restaurant and has a clear view of the outdoor area,” the email said.
The duties of the waiter include starting and maintaining the fire, setting up the fire extinguisher, supervision of guests throughout the night and dousing the fire at close.
“Knowing that they had a plan and that someone will be watching has put me in the comfort zone,” Selectman Rob Richards said, though he noted that he wanted the community to know that the board takes these things seriously.
Bodega will now seek the approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission at its April 4 meeting.
“I’m hoping that the landlords had a conversation with them about outdoor fire without prior approval — probably not a good plan,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said.