'Bar Rescue' may have left Handlebar Café in the lurch

Buy Photo Joe Wojtas/The Day Stonington zoning officials will investigate whether a new, large mural on the side of Handlebar Café and a pair of handlebars overhanging its roof, added as part of the filming of a television show this week, violate the town's sign regulations and require a permit.

Stonington - Zoning officials will investigate whether a new, large mural on the side of Handlebar Café and a pair of handlebars overhanging its roof, added as part of the filming of a television show this week, violate the town's sign regulations and require a permit.

Typically, a property owner must obtain a permit from the town before it can put up any new sign.

This case is unique, according to First Selectman Ed Haberek, who is serving as acting director of planning, because the renovations to the bar were kept a secret until they were unveiled Wednesday night. Haberek said town officials did tell the TV show, "Bar Rescue," that it could not go ahead with a plan to place a large sign on the roof of the 210 S. Broad St. bar.

He said Building Official Wayne Greene and Fire Marshal Kevin Burns inspected the building and found it to be in compliance with building and fire codes.

Haberek said he will discuss the sign and handlebars with Town Planner Keith Burns, and he expects the Planning and Zoning Commission to discuss the issue when it meets Tuesday. It could require the bar to apply for a permit for the two items.

A team from the Spike TV show worked from Saturday to Wednesday to renovate the bar. The show and its host, Jon Taffer, help drinking establishments "transform themselves into vibrant profitable businesses."

Taffer, who is described as having three decades of experience in the food, beverage, hotel and hospitality business, comes in and make changes to decor, menus and operations, sometimes upsetting the owners.

The Handlebar renovation is one of 10 new episodes being filmed that will air this summer.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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