New London café owner buys former Book-A-Zine

New London - The former Book-A-Zine adult video and bookstore on Bank Street has been purchased by the owner of Hot Rod Cafe next door for $250,000.

Rod Cornish, owner of the café, said Friday afternoon that he bought the three-level building earlier that day partly to make sure that the space will not be used for its former purpose.

"It will no longer be a porn store ... at least not in my lifetime," Cornish posted on the café's Facebook page. "Hot Rods loves New London and is committed to the city and i(s) doing our part to help this town reach its full potential."

Book-A-Zine moved suddenly out of town in February, and Cornish said his understanding is that the building at 116 Bank St. is the only one in the city where such a business would be permitted. The owner of the building, constructed in 1900 according to appraisal records, was listed as Befumo Marguerite.

Reached by phone, Cornish said he is not entirely sure what he will do with the building, which has about 1,700 square feet of space on the ground floor as well as a 1,400-square-foot upper level that he described as a shell. The building, which also includes a 2,800-square-foot unfinished basement, was appraised at $222,000 during last year's real-estate assessment process.

His main aim initially, Cornish said, is to get permission from the city to use the back of the building to expand the deck at Hot Rod for use during the warmer months, hoping to open in time for Sailfest July 11-13. He is leaving it partially up to his customers what to do with the former Book-A-Zine space, but thought initially that it could be used as banquet space.

"It's a nice gateway to the city," Cornish, a city resident, said of the building.

Cornish said he approached the owners of Book-A-Zine more than a year ago about buying the building, but his offer was turned down. He subsequently signed a right-of-first-refusal agreement that entitled him to buy the building at a specified price, he said.

Cornish has operated Hot Rod Café as a bar and restaurant for nearly nine years, and bought the building at 114 Bank St. about four years ago. Well known for its chicken wings and ribs, the café opens at 3 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and at noon the rest of the week, though hours expand as the summer approaches.

l.howard@theday.com

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