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Hertel Avenue Deep South Taco approved, with several restrictions

The Buffalo Planning Board Monday night approved chef Richard Hamilton’s proposal for a second Deep South Taco location on Hertel Avenue, but not before imposing significant restrictions on the operation of the outdoor patio to limit hours and ban any outdoor music.

Citing past precedent with other restaurants, as well as the vocal objections of a handful of nearby neighbors, the board gave Hamilton the green light to open his new eatery, but voted overwhelmingly for only a one-year conditional approval for the covered patio operation.

As a result, he must come back to the board one year after his business opens, expected by summer, to see whether there have been any problems.

“We’re going to meet all the needs and requirements if we’re going to live up to our word,” Hamilton said in an interview after the discussion and vote, which lasted well over an hour.

In addition, the board required that Hamilton close the patio at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. Members directed the restaurateur not to play any music outside, whether live or recorded. And the board mandated that outside tables must be serviced from inside the restaurant, not from a proposed outdoor bar.

“I don’t care if it’s music from Mars. This board will not approve outdoor music on patios,” said board member Cynthia Schwartz.

The board’s actions came in response to residents’ concerns that the new restaurant will disrupt the neighborhood with loud music, raucous behavior, traffic and drunkenness. “Monday Night Football is going to be unbearable for the neighbors. Everytime someone scores, it’s going to be loud,” said Bill McGuire of Wallace Avenue.

Andrew Gardner of Starin Avenue recalled past problems with a former bar in the neighborhood. “They’re going to their cars at 3 a.m., slamming doors and urinating on the street. One of the neighbors even said they’re having sex in the bushes,” Gardner said. “We’re not looking for a repeat of that.”

Hamilton is proposing to convert a vacant former Quick Lube station at 1707 Hertel into a restaurant with 86 indoor seats and over 120 outdoor seats on a covered patio. Plans had called for bars inside and outside, outdoor music and a giant screen for sports events.

But the proposal has been delayed for two months while Hamilton sought to meet with local residents and address their issues.

He reduced the outdoor seating from 160 to 120, toned down the outdoor colors to more neutral hues with accents, introduced features to absorb the sound, and reduced the height of the outdoor screen.

Hamilton is also adding a kids’ menu, bike racks and changing stations in the bathrooms. The project was approved unanimously by the Zoning Board of Appeals.Still, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Delaware Councilman Joel P. Feroleto and the Hertel Business Association hosted a public meeting at the North Buffalo Community Center, about 1.5 miles from the restaurant site at Hertel and Starin avenues. Feroleto said Monday that more than 100 people showed up from throughout the Delaware District, with most expressing support for the project.But a handful of neighbors criticized the location of the meeting, and said they felt intimidated by the support. So a separate meeting was held with them at a nearby church a week later, but not all were satisfied. Speaking at the Planning Board meeting, neighbors said Deep South would be more of a bar with appetizers rather than a restaurant, and complained that it didn’t fit with their residential neighborhood.“This is a great fun place, but it doesn’t belong in this neighborhood,” said Larry Gottesman, who lives in the Crocker Park area. “Let it be in the downtown entertainment district or on the waterfront. Let them be where they could have all the noise they want.”

“I don’t think this site fits here. It is essentially an outdoor bar for 100 people,” said Matthew Van Vessen of Wingate Avenue. “It’s not consistent with the zoning of the neighborhood. It’s just a repurposing of an ugly, nasty building that was just plopped down into this area without anyone asking.”

Hamilton said the new changes would “impact the way we do business, but not to a point where we’re irreparably damaged.” However, it will likely drive up the cost of his project to about $1 million, and he noted that he plans to invest nearly $250,000 just to build the outside patio, so the limited one-year approval is a concern.

“We’ve got to operate our business in the way we said we would, and if we do that, I have no worries that we may not be extended,” he said.

But if not, “it would dramatically and negatively impact our business. We’ll approach that day when it comes.”