Mike's Tavern Location is Re-Zoned; New Jazz Bar May Be Built on the Site
Mike's Tavern, the 84-year-old pub on the corner of Route 206 and Birch Avenue, has been re-zoned, potentially making way for what could be a new jazz bar.
Township resident Stephen Distler, the owner of both Mike's Tavern and a neighboring residence on Birch Avenue, was granted a use variance to open such a club. If the plan makes it through the remaining stages of the building approval process, both current structures would be demolished to make way for the club. Plans include 150 dining seats and bar seats, in a building in between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet, Mr. Distler said.
Mr. Distler is said to be working with Princeton architect Terence Smith, who is locally known for designing Triumph Brewery on Nassau Street.
Before receiving use approval from the Princeton Township Zoning Board last Wednesday, Mr. Distler held a community meeting with area residents to discuss his plans. According to Zoning Board Chairman Carlos Rodrigues, only a handful of residents came out to voice their concern regarding the opening of a jazz bar in their neighborhood.
Now that use approval has been granted, Mr. Distler needs to re-appear before the Zoning Board with his site plan.
"Really, the only thing the Board was being asked to do on Wednesday was to approve the use variance," Mr. Rodrigues said.
"With these kinds of applications, [we're] really making a decision on the use, and you really can't turn the use down based on anticipated impact," he said. On the other hand, Mr. Rodrigues added, "it's difficult to draw a hard line between [the two]."
Princeton Township's municipal land-use law, however, allows an applicant to appear before the Zoning Board with simply a "use" portion of the application or with an entire site plan. Testimony was also provided by a traffic engineer, a planner, and Mr. Smith to give the Board more specific information on the project.
Issues that are related to site plan review, he added, are deferred to a later meeting, which has not yet been set. However, at that point, the question of the use of a pending structure is not an issue, as that element has already received approval.
Ultimately, the neighbors were not able to convince a majority of the board that the project would be inappropriate.
"My guess is that many of these issues will probably resurface at the time of site plan review, and at that stage we'll be looking at all those issues regarding traffic, circulation, light and noise," he said.