Many residents are eagerly anticipating the opening of the Monroe Diner at 568 Main Street, but visions of cheese fries and gravy and omelets at any time of the day will have to wait — at least a little longer.
Donna Alatakis, whose family is renovating the building that once housed the New Colony Diner, is predicting an Oct. 1 opening.
"I get a lot of comments around town," she said with a smile. "I think everyone's excited. We're excited to be here and finally open."
Alatakis' family also owns the Circle Diner on the Post Road in Fairfield and she said people there have even asked about the new Monroe diner.
The building on Main Street looks brand new but the site, which currently has a large Dumpster on it, shows evidence that more work needs to be done. Alatakis said that includes the paving of the parking lot, setting up the kitchen and hiring employees.
On Tuesday, the stand-alone sign that will beckon drivers in from Route 25 was taken care of when the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance for the non conforming sign — which is larger than town regulations allow.
Alatakis said Monroe Diner LLC took down the old sign, which was 46-square-feet, and refurbished it. Town regulations allow signs to be 32-square-feet and no permit could be found for the old sign.
The New Colony Diner sign was blue and white with some red lettering. It had wings at the top of the sign for the business, plus two signs below for "Cocktails" and "Baking Done On Premises". Sticking out of one of the posts was an "ATM" sign.
The Monroe Diner removed the wings and the non-conforming signage below the main sign, as well as the one jutting out — effectively cleaning it up. The Monroe Diner sign is red and white and would be put back onto the old posts.
The diner also took down a 4-foot-by-4-foot non-conforming sign that was on the property.
What's Your Hardship?
When coming before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance from town zoning regulations, the applicant must present a hardship as a reason for the request.
"Can you tell me your hardship?" board member Marion Callo asked.
Alatakis said, "The sign that was there for 30 years was the same size and we're refurbishing it and making it better and removing some of the other non-conforming signs."
Callo noted how the diner would have to get a permit if it ever wanted to add anything to the sign.
ZBA members did not ask a lot of questions during the hearing and nobody from the public spoke, so it closed after only a few minutes.
During the deliberation, Carl Ferraro said, "I don't have any issues."
Callo pointed out that if Monroe Diner LLC had found a permit for the old sign they would not even have to come before the ZBA.
Chairman James Wendt said, "I have no problem with it. The same sign was there for years. They're actually reducing a non-conforming sign and clutter."
The variance was granted by a vote of 4-1 with Paul Lisi voting no.