EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – No new restaurants will be allowed to open in the Town of Eastchester for at least six months while the town board reviews zoning codes applying to the food service industry.
"The purpose of the law is to examine the different kinds of restaurants there are out there and our zoning codes in order to be better able to determine what kinds of restaurants we want here and what kind of restaurants we don't want here," Supervisor Anthony Colavita said. "There are a lot of hybrid restaurants out there now, and we want to compare what is out there to our zoning codes."
The moratorium, which the board passed unanimously at Tuesday's meeting, comes just a few weeks after the Eastchester zoning board told Panera Bread that it does not fall within the town's existing definition of acceptable restaurants.
Town law prohibits fast-food providers, defined primarily as restaurants that do not have servers to take food orders at the tables, bring food to the patrons, deliver the checks and clean up after the diners.
Panera Bread said it fell within the guideline because, although patrons order and pay at a service counter, servers bring the food to the table.
Colavita said no other applications by food-serving establishments are waiting for review, making this a good time for the moratorium.
Before the vote, the board held a public hearing on the moratorium, and several residents spoke in favor of it.
Resident John Palazzolo urged the town to look at restaurants that come in under one set of guidelines and evolve into a different definition.
"Look at something like Dunkin' Donuts," Palazzolo said. "It came in as a coffee and doughnut shop, and now they sell breakfast and sandwiches. The town needs to look at places here where that has happened."
Resident David Levy urged the board to put language in the law that will limit restaurants that are not community-minded.
"I don't think we should have places that are taking our money and running, and not giving anything back to the community," Levy said.
Levy also said that some existing restaurants came in as one type of establishment and are now a different kind.
Erica Bonime, who said she is a nearly lifelong town resident, thanked the board for dealing with the issue. She too cited businesses that began in one form and morphed into another.
"I think you can buy pizza and breakfast at one of the gas stations in the north end," Bonime said. "We should look at the restaurants out there and be sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing according to what they said they would do."
The ban took effect immediately. The board has the options of shortening the time frame of the ban or extending it.