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Town Council Hears From Unhappy Neighbors of Shish Lounge

Jonathan Harris, attorney for the lounge, says the owner is working with the town to address noise and littering complaints.

Susan Morgan stood up before Town Council members on Tuesday evening and told them what it's like to live on Arnold Way, near the on Farmington Avenue.

"On Friday and Saturday nights, there's a steady stream of foot traffic between 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.," Morgan said. "Cars drive up and down the street, pull U-turns ... people are talking, yelling, swearing."

Morgan said she was concerned about her own safety with fights occasionally breaking out on the street and patrons of the lounge sometimes urinating on the sidewalk in plain sight. Before the lounge opened about a year ago, she said, she didn't worry about walking her dog at night, but now she does.

The council also heard from Jonathan Harris, West Hartford's former mayor and an outgoing state senator who now represents the lounge as an attorney.

"We're here to say that Shish is taking this seriously," Harris said. Harris said that Shish's owner, Aaron Sarwar, is the president of the West Hartford Business Association and wants to address the concerns of the neighbors.

Because the business has no parking lot of its own, patrons have been parking in nearby residential neighborhoods. Harris said that Shish is working to provide parking for its patrons in lots closer to the Center and that Sarwar had paid for a sign to be put up at the Hampshire House, a nearby residential building, so that patrons would stop parking there.

Harris also said he would be sitting down with neighbors to discuss their concerns and work on solutions.

Later in the meeting, Frank Pinto, a resident of Hampshire House for 15 years, told the council that he had never had a problem with any of the restaurants that occupied the same space at 904 Farmington Ave. He questioned whether Shish was a restaurant or a club, which is not allowed under town zoning laws.

"It's a quality of life issue," Pinto said. "We can't sleep on a Friday or Saturday night between 11 p.m. and 2 in the morning. There's that much noise."

Town Manager Ron Van Winkle addressed the Shish Lounge issue as well, reporting that the Police Department had submitted a lengthy report to the state Liquor Commission to determine whether Shish is operating as a restaurant or a club.

"Under our zoning ordinance, we don't allow clubs," Van Winkle said.

He also said police had stepped up their presence in the area to reduce the unruly behavior, and he mentioned that Shish Lounge now sends employees out to pick up trash. He gave Sarwar credit for trying to address parking issues but said it was a difficult problem to solve.

"It's a hard one to figure out what we're going to do," he said. "It just can't continue, and we're going to do whatever we can to make sure it doesn't continue."

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the council had two pieces of good news for the town's senior citizens.

The Senior Citizens Advisory Council is looking into resurrecting the Senior Job Bank, which became defunct in 2009. The job bank matched up seniors with job experience and those looking for skilled labor. The advisory council will look at ways to get the job bank going again, and the council unanimously supported reviewing the service.

Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously authorized the town manager to enter into an agreement with the Independent Transportation Network (ITN) of Central Connecticut. The ITN will provide transportation around town for seniors who pay a membership fee, a service that Mayor Scott Slifka said was long overdue.

Slifka said the idea originally came before the council in 2003, and he credited James Capodiece, director of the , with pursuing the initiative over a period of seven years. The program will be paid for by membership fees but also through the support of town organizations such as the Rotary Club.

Councilman Rob Durbin, who was arrested last week and charged with interfering with a police officer, attended Tuesday night's meeting but had no comments about ongoing business. Slifka has removed Durbin from his committee assignments.

pj January 21, 2011 at 04:01 PM
This is not a good location for a dance club since there are so many senior residents.
Cherri March 08, 2011 at 12:19 AM
Shish Lounge is a great place! I was there saturday and had dinner and stayed for the dancing... What about all the other places in wh that have dancing? Barcelona, sidebar, .... Shish is the best, classiest and safest! besides my dad says this place has always had bars and dancing here... zodiac is what it was called when he would go.

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