BRIDGEWATER — Six years ago it was a challenge to fill a vacant business space in Bridgewater, Town Manager Jay Litten said during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
Minutes away from the meeting wrapping up, Litten approached the podium to speak further on a report from Tess Croy, the town’s parks coordinator, who said in the last week she had received several inquiries from business owners wishing to occupy a now vacant space at Generations Park.
“If you contrast what we did in 2015 to what we are doing in 2021, our advancement on the radar of business owners and restaurant owners has been nothing short of remarkable, and it’s credit to you guys,” Litten said.
Litten’s remarks were made in response to Urgie’s Cheesesteaks announcement on Sept. 8 that after a year and a half in business at Generations Park, the restaurant was closing permanently.
On Facebook, Urgie’s owners Tommy and Steve Urglavitch said the COVID-19 pandemic had taken a toll on the business, and with cases rising in the area, the brothers decided to close the restaurant’s doors.
Croy told council members Tuesday the town was sad to see the business close, but understood the COVID-19 pandemic has presented “quite a challenge to businesses at this time.”
Croy said businesses reaching out about the now vacant space is a 180-degree turn from six years ago.
“When we first leased the restaurant in Generations Park, Alex and I were still at the law firm and, literally, we contacted 200 restaurants before we found one to say yes,” Litten said. “We were contacting chains, individual restaurants and family-owned restaurants. We literally went through the phone book just about and called everyone.”
The one who said yes first was Gervasio Amato, who owned and operated Jalapeno Southwest Grill at Generations Park from 2015 to 2019.
“That was a good get for us,” he said.
When Amato decided to close Jalapeno Southwest Grill, he sold the restaurant directly to the Urglavitch brothers, and Litten said the town was not a part of the transaction.
With the 2,692-square-foot restaurant space available once again, town staff are hopeful it will have new occupants soon.
“I’m getting quite a few phone calls a day actually about that spot, so we hope to move forward,” Croy said.
The economic development news didn’t stop there in Bridgewater.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Mark McConnell, with the restaurant chain Macado’s, came before council to ask for a special-use permit for property on the 100 block of South Main Street.
The special-use permit will have a more flexible approach to residential and restaurant parking in the area, as outlined in the town’s code.
According to the meeting agenda’s staff report, the town has waited for Macado’s to occupy the South Main Street location for several years, and while an extended wait is not desired, town staff understands the special-use permit will put a strain on available parking in the area.
McConnell said the plan is to spend $1.4 million on renovating the old Dixon Drugstore at the corner of South Main Street and West College Street. The upper level will house three residential units, and the space for Macado’s will be two-thirds dining space and one-third kitchen.
There will be 50 employees at the restaurant, McConnell said, with 12 people working per shift.
There are currently 12 parking spaces behind the building, but McConnell said he is hoping to expand it to 21 spots.
The renovation project will likely take two years to complete from the design phase to end of construction.
With town staff needing additional time to address available parking in the area, council members did not take action on the special-use permit request.