Friday, June 10, 2016

Fish & Game for the Rest of Us

There is no doubt that Fish & Game, operated by Zak Pelaccio who last month won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast, is a culinary destination, but its prices make it not the sort of restaurant most Hudsonians can patronize often. Soon, however, there will be another Zak Pelaccio restaurant in Hudson, with menu items between $8 and $16, which will be open every day, from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., serving lunch and dinner. The restaurant is BackBar at 347 Warren Street.

This is the latest stage in the evolution of 347 Warren Street, which began back in the spring of 2012 when the Planning Board (then still the Planning Commission) granted approval for the creation of an outdoor food court, made up of food trucks, and a beer and wine garden on the site. 

The original plan was never realized as proposed. Along the way, amendments to the original site plan were sought and granted, but last summer, when Michael Davis, the owner and original conceptualizer of site, appeared before the Planning Board for a third time, this time accompanied by Zak Pelaccio, with an amendment to the plan which would eliminate all the food trucks and create an outdoor seating area that could accommodate a hundred people and would remain open until 2 a.m., the Planning Board balked, and the neighbors rose up in protest. The proposal was withdrawn before a public hearing could be held.

This year, a new amendment was presented to the Planning Board which fared much better. The garden seating capacity was reduced to forty. No standees will be permitted. Garden dining will end at 10 p.m., and there will be no music outside. Pelaccio and Kevin Pomplun, his partner in the new enterprise as well as Fish & Game, discussed their plans with the neighbors and modified them to address the neighbors' concerns. As a result, at the public hearing last night, three people--Third Ward alderman John Friedman, HDC executive director Sheena Salvino, and realtor Mary Mullane--made comments in support of the proposal, and only one person, Danette Koke, who had spearheaded the opposition in 2015, spoke against it, saying that there had already been a number of complaints to the Hudson Police Department about noise emanating from BackBar and wondering why "the whole thing is already built" when the Planning Board had not yet granted site plan approval. (In the meeting that followed the public hearing, Pelaccio acknowledged that the HPD had visited the bar several times, "in response to complaints always from one or two people," but they had "never received a noise citation or any other kind of citation.")

After the public meeting, which lasted all of ten minutes, and deliberation by the members of Planning Board present--Tom DePietro, Gene Shetsky, Rob Bujan, Cleveland Samuels, and Laura Margolis--DePietro, who chairs the Planning Board, led the group through the SEQR short form, and the board unanimously made a negative declaration. They then unanimously granted site plan approval.

Coincidentally, hours before the Planning Board held a public hearing and made its decision, the New York Times published an article about the new restaurant and its new Southeast Asian menu that's being called Bakar at BackBar: "Zak Pelaccio Revisits Malaysian Cooking in His New Restaurant."

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