The Derby restaurant in New Market has a seating capacity of 231, yet it is almost always filled.
Drive by on a Friday or Saturday night, or a weeknight on a special occasion, and customers will be lining the bar and sitting on the patio enjoying a meal out with family and friends.
The restaurant at 83 W. Main St. has been so popular that after being open for only nine months, the owners are ready to expand.
Staci Caiola, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Dan, attended the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week with hopes of adding seating to the upstairs space of the restaurant and open up the lawn for events.
For outdoor events, the owners plan to have movie nights where people bring their own chairs or blankets. For concerts, bands would set up on the porch and tables and chairs would be set up on the grass.
A recent event with a similar setup brought out about 200 people, which Staci Caiola called “a good number regarding space.”
For additional seating, the owners want to open the upstairs space of the property. It’s currently being used for storage, but the Caiolas want to use it for private parties and extra seating on Friday and Saturday nights, if the room isn’t rented.
A bar will not be added upstairs.
The fire marshal has not been in the space to determine its maximum occupancy, but Caiola estimated that 40 to 50 people would be a comfortable number for parties such as bridal and baby showers and sports team parties.
“We’re getting a ton of requests for those types of parties,” Caiola told the Planning and Zoning Commission. “Right now they’re just mixed into the dining area or we’ve put them out back. We had a team party this week that sat outside at picnic tables.”
To utilize the upstairs and increase the service area in the restaurant, the town’s Board of Appeals must issue an amendment to the current special exception approval that is in place. The special exception, which was grandfathered in when the Caiolas took over the building, allows the property to have a restaurant, according to Pat Faux, town planner and zoning administrator.
Town code stipulates that the Planning and Zoning Commission see a site plan for the property once the owners get their Board of Appeals approval. The commission will also need a site plan to add parking, which the town thinks should be tackled first.
“The biggest thing I see is they’re already at capacity for parking,” said Dennis Kimble, Town Council liaison for the commission. “I like The Derby. They’re doing a great job there, and I would like to see them expand because they’re improving the town. But they need to increase that parking area. They’re already over the limit.”
He suggested a parking study be done before going to the Board of Appeals to determine how many parking spots are needed given the amount of seating in the restaurant.
The restaurant has about 20 designated parking spots, Caiola said. Along with street parking, the fire department across the street offered parking spaces in their lot to the restaurant, although she did not know how many spots would be offered, she said.
Faux added that the town code on parking “is a very creative one” that allows applicants to propose alternative parking solutions, such as using the fire department’s parking lot.
But added parking for the restaurant concerns nearby businesses.
Gayla Wheeler, owner of Gayla’s, which is next door to The Derby, is concerned about the stormwater runoff from the restaurant’s current parking lot as well as customers taking all of the street parking.
“Even if the street accommodates The Derby, it does take away from the existing businesses,” she told the commission. “Some people aren’t coming to go to The Derby. They’re coming to go to one of the shops.”
She suggested that the commission consider the limited parking for nearby businesses and the current drainage problem due to stormwater runoff.
“They’ve got three businesses going there now,” she said. “The restaurant, the tavern and the ice cream parlor, and now they want to add the upstairs, which is a concern to me because of the noise level increases.”
To tackle the parking issue before any site plans are drawn up, Kimble made a motion for a parking study to be conducted and for the findings to be brought to the Board of Appeals. A second motion was added that one of the planning board members go to the Board of Appeals to present the recommendations for their consideration.
A Board of Appeals meeting has not yet been scheduled.