2006-09-28 / Front Page

Comedy club gets OK for former theater site

Cinema 9 will be renovated for dining, live comedy
BY MICHAEL ACKER Staff Writer

BY MICHAEL ACKER
Staff Writer

SAYREVILLE -- The owner of a local sports bar is one step closer to opening a comedy club in the former Cinema 9 building.

The Planning Board voted unanimously Sept. 20 to approve the site plan proposed by Primetime Sports Bar and Billiards Cafe Owner Kevin Seltzer and his wife, Eva, who want to renovate the former adult movie theater that is adjacent to their Route 9 business.

The company that owns the former movie cinema, Ethan H, presented the board with a minor site plan for the comedy club, which was first discussed last year when the group sought an expansion of the Primetime liquor license. The Borough Council granted that expansion, allowing liquor to be served at the future comedy club.

Planning Board members last week agreed that the change of use from an adult cinema to a comedy club and dining venue is a welcome one.

During the meeting, professionals hired by Ethan H showed preliminary plans for the architectural and site plan and testified on the need for a variance from parking standards. Ethan H attorney Lawrence Sachs told the board that similar parking variances were granted for the property's prior uses as well.

Engineer Kevin Maher said that two handicap parking spaces will be added to the parking lot, and parking will be expanded at the rear of the building as well.

Maximum occupancy of the venue when it was Cinema 9 was approximately 600 people, Maher said, noting that they are looking to seat 380 guests. With 20 employees on hand, the building can be expected to hold 400.

Much of the original fire stripping is still intact, Maher said, adding that emergency access and space for fire trucks is adequate as well.

No new signs are needed other than replacing the Cinema 9 sign with one of similar size, Sachs said. He added that the food served at the comedy club will be shuttled through a private ramp from Primetime, where it will be prepared in the kitchen.

Planning Board member Thomas Tighe asked that they restrict the hours of garbage pickup so that the noise does not disturb neighbors in the early morning, and the club owner agreed to that request.

Maher said he determined that there is no need for additional lighting on the property.

Architect Craig Erezuna said the club will have 22 café tables, and 18 staff members will service the club's patrons.

A lower-level mezzanine is planned with a vista view staircase and a waiting area for between 100 and 125 people, Erezuna said. He added that a green room, offices, VIP business seating and private box seating will also be constructed inside.

Primetime will remain open during construction of the comedy club, and the exterior of the building will not be altered as much as the interior, where improved lighting will be installed, Erezuna said.

Engineer Paul Going, who did the traffic study, described the bar and the comedy club as complementary uses with peak hours in the evening. He said that adequate site circulation and parking existed with the site plan, which includes 351 parking spaces.

Board Engineer Jay Cornell said a variance was needed, since 589 parking spaces are required for the venue's 400 guests.

The club will primarily be open from Thursday to Sunday, Seltzer said, adding that an open "mic" night is being considered for Wednesday nights.

The club will stay open until 2 a.m., with the first show likely beginning at approximately 7:30 p.m. and the second around 10 p.m., Seltzer said. Afternoon hours would be devoted to preparation and set-up, he said.

Seltzer confirmed that there will be no go-go dancing at the venue, which had been the concern of the neighboring Bourbon Street go-go bar. There will be no pyrotechnic shows, and the ratio of security employees to patrons will be within regulations at one for 50.

During the meeting, resident Al Grabowski, of Burlew Place, said his residential street has become like a highway cut-through to Route 9. He asked that the owner deter clubgoers from using the road.

Sachs said that they do not anticipate patrons of the comedy club to use any other access other than Route 9, adding that the business will post a sign at the club's exit encouraging patrons to leave the area via Route 9.

Seltzer's brother, Adam, who is director of operations and manager of Primetime, estimated that the total cost of building will be in the area of $750,000. They will start construction as soon as the blueprints are approved by the buildings department, he said, and the project is hoped to be completed by Dec. 31.

Seltzer said he believes the business will help the community, with more jobs and a new option for entertainment. He added that comedy club patrons are likely to frequent other area businesses as well.

"We are very happy," Seltzer said of the approval. "The process should be moving along. Now it is going to happen."

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