New London's Spark approved for restaurant, patio space downtown

New London — Spark Makerspace gained approval on Thursday to expand its innovative cultivator kitchen program and create a full-blown restaurant with outdoor patio.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan by the nonprofit group to further develop its commercial kitchen space at 86 Golden St., use a portion of an outdoor welding space for dining and open up to the public at regular restaurant hours.

Spark plans to apply for a liquor license from the state and offer occasional acoustic music in the outdoor seating area.

Revenue from the food service is expected to be secondary to the training experience of those involved.

The new space will provide training opportunities for aspiring restaurateurs and entrepreneurs and allow them to be in a program where they have the chance to start and run a restaurant.

“They will cook, serve, engage with customers, manage employees, etc., without having to actually start up their own capital-intensive operation,” said Casey Moran, Spark’s director of operations, in the application for to the commission.

The new initiative fits into the overall mission of Spark, which is to provide access to equipment and expertise to support business development and entrepreneurship, Spark founder Hannah Gant said.

The Golden Street location, former home to the El 'N' Gee Club, now acts as a workshop and training center and space to share ideas. The space offers a woodshop, welding area, 3-D printing, electronics, screen printing, sewing machines and small metal jewelry making.

Gant said the programs hosted there are helping to start businesses and are improving the city as a result.

Spark started serving food there last month during “The Grilling Dinner Party” on Friday nights, offering $10 meals under the leadership of Montauk House owner and chef Robert Ramsey.

Ramsey said he was excited by the program and already has a core team working on the Friday night dinners. He said the space provides a platform for something really unique in the city, “something that hopefully says New London is a good place to start a business.”

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Barry Levine, after the approval, said, "I'm all for this. I'm glad you're doing it."

g.smith@theday.com

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