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Zoning board denies River Cat Cafe variance


The River Cat Café lost bids for both a zoning variance that would allow it to prepare cooked foods and overturning the enforcement actions against it in a stunning decision by the zoning hearing board in a brief meeting April 11.

The board rejected the variance request by the same 3-1 margin they upheld the enforcement action. The café at 142 South Main St. was particularly contentious since the business was owned by borough council member Alison Kingsley who, while remaining on the council, stepped down as borough president earlier this year.

In a limited commercial district, Kingsley invested in the property and violated ordinances that neighbor George Fernandez, who owns an apartment building across the street, complained about.

The café, which opened in the spring of 2018, is owned and managed by Kingsley on leased property owned by Edward and Eva Short of Brooklyn, N.Y. A Nov. 7 enforcement notice was addressed to the Shorts with a copy to Kingsley specifying violations of eight separate ordinances, including prohibitions on food preparation, non-permitted retail use, encroachment of outdoor seating setbacks, encroachment beyond designated property lines for a concrete dumpster pad, and off-street parking calculations.

Kingsley and the Shorts were represented by attorney Paul Cohen. And while Fernandez focused his arguments on food preparation, Jon and Peter’s Place co-owner Mike Weiners addressed the board in March on the more fundamental issues of “nefarious business dealings” and the “dangerous precedent” of a high-ranking borough official operating a business outside the confines of approvals, which she helped establish and enforce for other businesses.

Asked about the decision, Kingsley had no comment.