The Planning & Zoning Commission is set to weigh an application from a popular bar and restaurant downtown to amend its special permit.
The White Buffalo, a cozy pub located down an alley on Elm Street next to Barvida, is seeking permission to use a courtyard outside its doors for dining and entertainment, according to a written request submitted on behalf of the eatery by one of its co-owners.
“We have strived to provide a casual dining atmosphere in line with new Canaanites’ expectations and preferences,” Dave Tonkovich said in his request, received July 13 by P&Z.
“The use of the courtyard outside of the White Buffalo has allowed us to provide a family-friendly environment for New Canaanites to dine alfresco,” he said. “The tables in the courtyard have been put up and taken down every day and there has not been any new structures added to the courtyard that are permanent. The courtyard is private property (owned by Fiona Sigg). We have an agreement in our lease to use a portion of the courtyard for the White Buffalo. We all care deeply about New Canaan’s reputation and values.”
White Buffalo is seeking permission for outdoor seating and events in the courtyard one to two times per week from April through October, the request said.
P&Z is scheduled to take up the request at its special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
According to Town Planner Sarah Carey’s memo for the meeting, the bar and restaurant has had outdoor entertainment nearly every week for two years.
“The police department has received multiple noise complaints regarding the volume of the music,” Carey said in the memo. “However, they have not been in violation of the Town noise ordinance. PD also found recently that their liquor license does not hold the proper endorsement for live entertainment at this time. Recently P&Z was looped in and it was determined that they are in violation of their special permit approval from 2019. White Buffalo immediately applied for said special permit modification following my request. The state Liquor Commission is also aware and White Buffalo is in the process of remediating the issue. P&Z has received no formal written complaints regarding this application, despite the PD receiving numerous noise complaints over the last two summers.”
According to Carey, P&Z must determine if the outdoor entertainment is consistent with goals outlined in a document that guides planning in New Canaan, or if there should be a limit set on the frequency of such events.
In an email sent Monday to Carey, New Canaan Police Community Impact Officer Annamaria Ceci said White Buffalo’s liquor permit explicitly forbids live entertainment.
“Despite knowing they did not have proper permits with the State of Connecticut or the Town of New Canaan, they continued to have live bands perform on the weekends. Earlier this month, I observed the live entertainment at the White Buffalo. My observations and concerns are the following: The music is loud. It can be heard by the Town Hall entrance and further down Elm Street. The music is disruptive to neighboring establishments and nearby residents. It is also played loud enough that those dining inside neighboring restaurants can still hear the music.”
Ceci also said there should be barricades in place to protect those dining or enjoying entertainment outdoors from motor vehicle traffic. She added that there’s a garage at the end of the alley that’s rendered inaccessible if there’s an event.
“I observed individuals walking down Elm Street complaining about the music and covering their ears as they walked by the alley,” Ceci said in the email. “What kind of precedent are we setting for other establishments by allowing The White Buffalo to continuously violate their Liquor Permit and the Town of New Canaan requirements? If the town does in fact vote to allow live entertainment, I strongly feel that there needs to be better safety measures put in place. There should only be live entertainment if there will be barricades protecting the guests. For example, when the town allows pop-up parks and bands to perform at Elm Street and South Avenue, there is usually some sort of approval done by the Police Commission.”