New Wilton Brewpub Seems Unstoppable After Clearing Latest Zoning Hurdles

The Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission held a public hearing Monday evening, June 28, on the application for a new restaurant and craft brewery to be located at 4 Danbury Rd. in South Wilton.

With no opposition from the public, approval from the town’s Architectural Review Board, and few controversial details in the applicant’s plan, the momentum appears to be strong for the new establishment.

According to the application documents submitted by DWG Properties, LLC, the plans are to “entirely renovate the existing structure and adaptively reuse the building to create a restaurant and craft brewery (brewpub)”.

The two-story building would house a craft brewery production area on the first floor, and the actual brewpub restaurant on the second floor.

Before it could approve the required special permit for the application, P&Z had to first approve a regulation change.

The property is located in a DRB (Design Retail Business) District, in which restaurants are already a permitted use. However, a text amendment was sought to add the term “brewpub” as a permitted use in Wilton’s regulation, along with a definition of what a brewpub is, for added clarity.

Distinctions between restaurants and brewpubs may seem subtle but can be significant. State liquor licensing requirements are different, for example. To avoid any complication, the applicant proposed adding the term brewpub to the regulation.

With no objection received during the public hearing, and with the commission appearing to be conceptually in favor of the brewpub and its potential to greatly improve the property, the commission unanimously approved the text amendment, clearing the way for the special permit.

During the hearing, DWG Properties’ owner Dave Guda (left), an affable, longtime resident of New Canaan, revealed the brewpub will be a family business. Guda’s business partners in the new venture are his wife and son.

During the June 28 meeting, the commission continued to work through a number of details, touching on everything from police input on one-way exits to sign illumination and spent grain disposal.

One major detail — the brewpub’s name — is still to be announced. Guda indicated that was one element that continues to be the subject of “spirited” discussion amid the business planning, and one they hope to keep as a surprise for marketing purposes.

Town Planner Michael Wrinn observed that the application represented something fairly unique from a zoning perspective. “This is a different use from a traditional restaurant, and it’s a different use from a true manufacturing [facility] because we have very large equipment [and] a lot of storage requirements, but not a lot of personnel.”

That unique aspect of the brewpub was apparent when it came to the applicant’s plans for parking. The applicant’s site plan includes 26 parking spaces, a number which exceeds, by a fairly comfortable margin, the formulaic calculation of 1 parking space per 3 restaurant seats.

However, as Wrinn noted, the site will also have a manufacturing component, with employees who manage the brewery operations. But according to the applicant, those 2-4 workers were not expected to compete with brewpub customers for parking spots because the workers’ hours were generally earlier than the brewpub would be open or busy.

Commission chair Rick Tomasetti still had some reservations as to whether the applicant should calculate his parking needs differently, from the standpoint of the overall facility and not just the brewpub portion.

The special permit was approved with the condition that the applicant would submit a revised parking plan with a calculation that reflected not only the brewpub on the second floor but the entry area on the first floor, as well as some of the storage areas that would normally be included in a space calculation.

Editor’s Note: this story was edited to clarify that the special permit was approved with the condition that the applicant will submit a revised parking plan. No other changes to the application are expected.