A decision on whether or not the River Cat Cafe, operated by New Hope Borough Councilwoman Alison Kingsley, can continue preparing food on-site was delayed Thursday night.
New Hope Councilwoman Alison Kingsley and a crowd of supporters will have to wait until next month to know whether the River Cat Cafe can continue selling prepared food.
Kingsley operates the business at the property owned by Ted and Eva Short. It was cited in November for multiple zoning violations, including preparing meals at the 142 S. Main St. location, running afoul of local zoning laws.
The board adjourned after nearly two hours of testimony and public comment Thursday night, opting to render a decision at its April 11 meeting at 7 p.m.
Attorney Paul Cohen, representing the cafe, closed his case at the meeting this week, followed by a statement and “information packet” submitted by George Fernandez, a landlord of a neighboring property who first brought the matter to the borough council on Oct. 16.
Since the cafe opened last May, it has served a mixture of breakfast and lunch foods, and occasional dinner foods at events.
However, a 2015 zoning decision that referred to the property as a “low key” coffee and tea shop at the corner of South and Main streets did not permit food to be prepared on-site.
Kingsley and the Shorts are appealing the violations, and Kingsley is attempting to have the 2015 opinion overturned. Other zoning citations already have been addressed since hearings began in January.
Issues regarding the location of Dumpsters, and the concrete pads they sat on, was apparently resolved between January and Thursday’s hearings.
An unresolved parking issue that was not discussed in depth Thursday is being reviewed by the borough’s staff, and is unlikely to be included in the zoning board’s decision.
Thursday’s testimony seemed to reinforce Cohen’s argument that the 2015 food prep ban “prevents the operation of a restaurant in a competitive manner.”
Architect Moira McClintock, a partner at Ford 3 Architects LLC, in New Jersey, included in her testimony this week the cafe is also on the border of a zoning district that does allow cooked meals.
The River Cat Cafe is in the borough’s limited commercial district, which is defined as a “transitional” zone between residential and commercial development.
A financial advisor to Kingsley also testified the business without food service would ultimately be unsustainable.
A crowd of about 60 people came to the meeting, filling up most of one side of the room — the same side where Cohen and Kingsley sat.
Fernandez reiterated statements the cafe was not operating within the letter of the law, and raised concerns that increased traffic and food deliveries would eventually lead to someone getting hurt.
He was interrupted in reading his statement at least once from scoffs and laughs from the crowd when he raised safety concerns.
During a public comment period that lasted over half an hour, several area residents said they felt the cafe is a boon to the community and posed no safety issues.