Mara Brooks, Editor

Charlotte Crossings owner Mike Dunbar said the restaurant will appeal

Zoning Administrator Wendy Pelletier has put Charlotte Crossings’ Backyard Bistro on notice.

In a Sept. 14 Notice addressed to Backyard Bistro Gemini Properties, LLC, Pelletier warned building owners Debra Kassabian and Mike Dunbar, and restauranteurs Adam and Jill Spell the restaurant was in violation of the town’s Land Use Regulations.

Offenses listed in the Notice included hosting large events on the Route 7 property, unauthorized parking, and adding gravel to an area identified as a Class 2 wetland buffer without proper permits.

“The number of seats inside and outside the Backyard Bistro restaurant exceeds the 26-seat limit established by the Certificate of Occupancy,” Pelletier wrote. “Furthermore, for the event held at Backyard Bistro on Sept. 4 … there were roughly 80 tickets sold, and it was apparent that there were at least 50 seats set up outside and more than 30 seats set up under the tent.”

Backyard Bistro located at The Charlotte Crossing in Charlotte. Photo by Mara Brooks

Backyard Bistro located at The Charlotte Crossing in Charlotte. Photo by Mara Brooks.

This is not the first time Charlotte Crossings has locked horns with the town over Land Use Regulations. In August of last year, building owners Debra Kassabian and Mike Dunbar were ordered to stop hosting food trucks at the property because they were in violation of seven different regulations.

In a written statement to The News, Dunbar characterized the latest alleged violations as “mainly limitations in the Land Use Regulations and how they can be interpreted and selectively enforced.”

The restaurant plans to appeal, Dunbar said.

“From the beginning, our vision at Charlotte Crossings was to build a place where Charlotters could cross paths, gather, and enjoy a nice meal,” he said. “A local place to get together and build the community, as stated in our town plan.”

Dunbar added that all six businesses located at the Charlotte Crossings building (“i.e., Red Onion, Charlotte WorkClub, Backyard Bistro, Robbison Consulting, Junapr, and Guilded Elephant) “are owned by Charlotte residents. We worked very hard through a pandemic to recruit a restaurant to move their business to Charlotte.”

Former La Villa Bistro owners Jill and Adam Spell “moved from their restaurant location in Shelburne, changed their [business] name and completely revamped their menu overnight,” Dunbar wrote. “This is a very difficult thing to do especially in these times, and boy, they nailed it.”

In a combined written statement, Jill and Adam Spell said, “We are here to provide a service and benefit to our community, which has so far been well received. The town of Charlotte citizens have been asking for this for years.”

Dunbar lamented that at a time when the group “should be celebrating” the success of their restaurant, they are instead “dealing with violations and how to operate in a town not supportive of our vision and hard work.”

Backyard Bistro has seven days from the date of the notice to comply with the town’s demands or risk fines of up to $200 per day.

The restaurant was given until Sept. 30 to remove the unauthorized gravel from the property.

Dunbar encouraged residents of Charlotte who would like to offer “feedback” to the zoning office to email or call the town office and ask for Town Administrator Dean Bloch, Town Planner Larry Lewack, or Zoning Administrator Wendy Pelletier.

He added that Backyard Bistro is “always willing to sit down at the table and figure out how we can successfully run our business in Charlotte within the regulations and find a way where it works for everyone.”

The Spells echoed Dunbar’s sentiment.

“We look forward to working with the Town to navigate a successful solution to continue to give the residents of Charlotte a product they really enjoy,” they said.

Backyard Bistro has 15 days to appeal the notice with the Zoning Board of Adjustment.