A Newcastle couple plans to open a home-based dinner restaurant, The Patio, on Poorhouse Cove in South Bristol this spring.
The South Bristol Board of Selectmen held a public hearing to discuss entertainment and liquor licenses for the restaurant Thursday, April 19.
Mark Bartle and Kim McLellan presented their plans for the small restaurant at 1578 Route 129.
The restaurant would be at a family home, which belonged to Bartle’s grandparents.
The Patio would be open from 5:30-9:30 p.m. three or four days a week, and dining would be by reservation only. It would be open from July through October, as weather permits, according to Bartle.
The restaurant would have five tables on a patio, and would seat 24-30 people.
Dinner would consist of a five-course meal, with guests arriving at 5:30 p.m. There will be only one seating each evening.
“The idea is a set menu, so Mark will have maybe two choices on an evening. You’re coming for this experience,” McLellan said.
Bartle, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in New York, has been working in kitchens for about 35 years.
He has owned three restaurants, two on the island of St. Croix and one in Dennis, Mass.
Both Bartle and McLellan have worked at Coveside Restaurant in South Bristol. Bartle has been the chef for the past four years, and McLellan a waitress and bartender for the past 10.
“I would like to do something more specific,” Bartle said.
“I want to do it at a much slower pace, smaller volume, where I can focus more on craft,” he said.
There would not be a bar in the restaurant, only the option of having a cocktail with dinner, according to Bartle.
“White-tablecloth dining in a rustic setting” is how the pair describes the experience they are trying to create. They envision a restaurant that is intimate but casual.
“We want them to feel important,” McLellan said of patrons.
“We really want to create an experience, but we want it to be very low-key. We want people to be able to enjoy a phenomenal meal, enjoy our handcrafted wine list, and just enjoy the scenery. And then we quietly shut the lights off and everybody goes home,” Bartle said.
Bartle and McLellan would be the only staffers, although they might eventually hire a dishwasher if necessary, according to Bartle.
People passing by the home would probably not even be able to tell that it houses a restaurant, according to Bartle.
There would be no signage, other than “The Patio” lettered on the mailbox, and all exterior lighting would be low and subdued, according to Bartle. The parking area would not be visible from the street. It would be a non-smoking property.
William Dale, an attorney from the Portland firm Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, attended the meeting to represent Don Hirsch, a professor at the University of Virginia who owns a summer home about a quarter-mile from the proposed restaurant.
Dale said Hirsch requested that a decision on the licenses be postponed for two weeks, so neighbors could discuss the proposal.
“This is all new to the neighbors,” Dale said.
“You know what happens in a small town in two weeks, when this goes on the street? We won’t be able to hold that meeting here, we’ll hold it in the school. And you’ll want to be well-prepared to face the residents of the town of South Bristol,” board of selectmen Chair Ken Lincoln said to Dale.
There was quite a bit of discussion over whether a second public hearing in a couple of weeks would be necessary, in order to spread the word to neighbors and summer residents about the proposed plan.
Some in attendance felt there was not enough notice to the public about the hearing.
The selectmen said the board does not issue or approve the liquor license, but only holds a public hearing before the application is sent to the state.
The selectmen said that after the meeting, the liquor license application would be sent to the state for a decision, since the selectmen held the public hearing. They also said the liquor license has to be reapplied for every year, so if changes need to be made in the future, they can be.
They asked that any discussion about the entertainment license be held then, rather than in two weeks.
“I think the concern of neighbors is noise,” one attendee said.
“The entertainment would purely be, if so desired, acoustic or lightly amplified,” in the case of a keyboard, Bartle said.
It was agreed by those in attendance that the restaurant could have entertainment from Patriot’s Day to Nov. 1, and that the music could not exceed 50 decibels 100 feet from the establishment. The selectmen then approved the entertainment license.
Others in attendance were concerned with light and noise pollution from headlights and car doors slamming. Some wished to set a limit of how many patrons could visit the restaurant at one time.
The selectmen said the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office determines the capacity of a space. They said the concerns, while valid, were not part of the liquor license or entertainment license application process.
“We are moving forward with this permit,” Lincoln said.
“I expected a lot of interest … it was more intense than I expected it to be,” Bartle said of the public hearing.
However, both Bartle and McLellan said they understand why people would want more information about changes in their neighborhood.
Bartle stressed that the restaurant would have a “very light footprint,” as it is part of a family home.
“In our vision, it is an atmosphere of friends and acquaintances,” Bartle said.