PROVINCETOWN — Restaurants and neighbors often share tight quarters in this town, and that’s certainly been true on Kiley Court in the East End since Ciro & Sal’s first started serving Italian food in 1954.
During the pandemic, the restaurant added outdoor seating, as many restaurants did to survive. Now, after the zoning board of appeals issued a special permit to continue that seating, the neighbors say, the restaurant’s patrons are taking over their narrow lane.
The two sides may wind up going to court.
Kiley Court is a private way only about 10 feet wide that backs up to Lovetts Court, another tight cluster of houses. The area is in a Residential 3 zoning district, which provides for high-density residential development. Restaurants are allowed by special permit from the ZBA. The area is also in the town’s historic district.
In December, Ciro & Sal’s owner, Larry Luster, applied for a special permit to maintain the outdoor seating in the courtyard. The restaurant, which Luster runs with his two sons, Zachary, the manager, and Caleb, the head chef, has 120 seats. Seating had always been indoors, but from 2020 through 2022 52 seats were moved to the back yard in good weather.
The move was popular. Almost 350 pages of letters arrived at town hall before the zoning board’s hearing. Most were from residents and tourists asking that the outdoor seating be allowed to continue.
Meanwhile, those who live closest to Ciro & Sal’s voiced strong opposition, in letters and at an initial hearing in January. After that, the neighbors offered the restaurant a compromise but got no response.
At a continued hearing in February, neighbors weren’t allowed to speak because the board had closed the public comment period. The board unanimously approved the special permit.
The permit allows for 52 seats outdoors, with the final seating in the courtyard to end at 9 p.m. Customers are not permitted in the outdoor dining area after 10:30, and the staff has until 11 to clear tables.
In addition, the restaurant owners agreed to add fencing with some soundproofing to mitigate noise.
A group of neighbors filed an appeal in state Land Court shortly after the permit was issued. The plaintiffs include Lauren Johnson and Marissa Mandel, David and Lindsey Pollack, Donald Nelson and Neal Balkovitsch, and Steven Rayl.
They asked the court to annul the special permit and determine that the restaurant can’t offer outdoor seating without a finding that the expanded use is not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the pre-existing indoor restaurant use.
The restaurant owner and the neighbors, along with their attorneys, have tentatively scheduled a mediation session on Nov. 16 to see whether a compromise can be reached. “If an agreement is reached during mediation, the most likely outcome would be a remand back to the zoning board of appeals to approve any changes necessary to the special permit,” said the neighbors’ lawyer, Paul Haverty.
The Pollacks own 8 Kiley Ct., which is 18 feet from Ciro & Sal’s back patio. Since outdoor seating started, David Pollack said in a letter to the zoning board, over 60 customers typically were seated on the outdoor patio seven nights a week and patrons would often stay as late as midnight. In addition to the noise, he said, access to his house was blocked by cars and bikes parked along the lane. Asking them to move sometimes led to confrontations, he said.
Balkovitsch, who owns 7 Lovetts Ct. with Nelson, said this week that the neighbors felt they weren’t being listened to during the hearing. “They stare at us while we speak, and then they vote,” Balkovitsch said. “I was in a state of shock that they weren’t more empathetic to what we were saying.”
Johnson and Mandel own the Kiley Court property directly across from Ciro & Sal’s; their deed says they own a large chunk of the street, which is a private way. Their house contains five rental units.
The noise from the courtyard is bothersome, Johnson said this week. But what concerns her more is “the complete and total takeover of the lane, which is our only way to get to our house.” Bikes belonging to customers are parked all along the lane and sometimes even in the middle of the road, she said, echoing Pollack’s complaint. She couldn’t get her car through last summer when a friend’s dog needed to be rushed to the vet in Buzzards Bay. Johnson said she had to run into the restaurant to get the manager.
Restaurant customers also wander out into the lane and hang out there on her property, smoking. “There are people back there shrieking,” she said, “with wine glasses and cigarettes.”
Luster’s lawyer, Robin Reid, commented during a hearing that the owners can’t be expected to control their customers’ behavior after they leave the restaurant.
The neighbors all said they aren’t looking to hurt the restaurant’s business and don’t expect outdoor seating to be fully eliminated. “We don’t want this to turn into a town-wide public battle,” Balkovitsch said. “Our town is too small to turn into a battleground.”
The plaintiffs are seeking changes such as fewer outdoor seats and perhaps an earlier closure of the outdoor area. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the suit will be settled in Land Court.