New Clubhouse Comes To The Fore

Westport is awash in restaurants and retail.

We’re blessed with outdoor amenities like Compo Beach and Longshore.

But when it comes to indoor fun — family activities, evenings with friends, date nights — not so much.

No movies or bowling, like Norwalk. No golf simulators, like Fairfield and Stamford.

Well, not today.

But — if Emily and Tim Zobl get the approvals and permits they need — hopefully next year.

Tim and Emily Zobl.

The Westporters — she’s a 2012 Staples High School graduate and former University of Michigan field hockey player, now co-founder and president of a firm that invests in hospitality, food services, technology and multi-media publishing; he has an events planning background, and is a local realtor — go before the Planning & Zoning Commission July 10.

They’ll present a concept for The Clubhouse: a “golf simulator lounge” activity space with 6 state-of-the-art bays that have 13 interactive experiences in golf, football, soccer, hockey, dodgeball and more; private rooms for birthday parties, corporate events, karaoke and big-screen game viewings, plus a bar with craft cocktails and a pub-bites menu.

Phase 2 involves 10 homes. Two will be affordable, according to state formulas.

The site is 1608-1622 Post Road East. Redi-Cut Carpet & Rugs, with a long-term lease, will remain. The other tenants — including Pane e Bene restaurant — would move or close.

1620 Post Road East was built in 1946.

It’s a true Westport project. Emily was part of the team that saved the historic Old Mill Grocery & Deli last year, and serves on the Earthplace board. Both are experienced in the hospitality industry, and love golf.

Their goals are to offer fun, new activities that Westport lacks; improve a 1940s-era building, and add landscaping and screening; provide a bit of affordable housing — and save the property from a much larger 8-30g project, which has been proposed in the past.

The Zobls are now in the due diligence phase. The P&Z hearing next week includes a text and map amendment, and review of a general development plan.

If approved, the couple will continue with engineering and architecture plans, an application to the Architectural Review Board and more.

The Clubhouse will include not just golf simulators …

The Clubhouse would be part of a renaissance of the Post Road between Maple Avenue and Stop & Shop. Delamar has torn down the Westport Inn. It will be replaced by a boutique hotel.

Rick Redniss of the Redniss & Mead land use and engineering firm is working on both Delamar Westport, and The Clubhouse.

Just east of the Zobls’ project — at the former AJ’s Farm Stand — work proceeds on Tacombi, the first Connecticut location for the popular New York-based taqueria.

… but adaptations for football, baseball, soccer, hockey dodgeball and other sports. Participants will feel like they’re part of the action.

The acre of land behind The Clubhouse — Phase 2 of the Zobls’ project — has been zoned residential for decades.

The Lansdowne condominiums were built next door 4 decades ago, on the site of a former miniature golf course and driving range. The range became an unofficial dump. Though several proposals were made for the property behind the carpet store — including an intensive 8-30g project — nothing was ever built.

The Zobls have held several meetings with neighbors on George Street — behind the land — and nearby High Gate Road, along with the adjacent Lansdowne condos.

“We’re very sensitive to them,” Emily says. “We want to be an asset. We’re working with them to make this a success for everyone.

“We’re not developers from New York. This is our town. Tim will be on site, running the daily operation.

“He’ll oversee the simulators, the lounge, private events, karaoke — everything. This is a true local business.”

The architect is local too: Rick Hoag.

Though the couple is excited about the possibilities — for family fun, night life, and of course the housing component — they are not rushing things.

“We want to do this right,” Tim says.

It’s their Clubhouse. They look forward to welcoming the entire town to it.

PS: The Zobls first looked at 950 Post Road East — the former Men’s Wearhouse — for The Clubhouse. But there were parking issues, and it was too close to neighbors.

On July 10 — the same night the P&Z hears the text and map amendment requests from the Zobls — they’ll discuss  special permit and site plan application to permit a veterinary hospital/animal clinic at 950 Post Road East.

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41 responses to “New Clubhouse Comes To The Fore

  1. I’m curious if any others see this as I do.
    Yes, she is “local”, as opposed to being a
    “New York Developer”—as she states in the article—but does that local connection truly make a difference in the end? Isn’t it really all about what’s best for the town of Westport and the neighbors that would be impacted the most?
    Also, I’m assuming that they really want Redi-Cut to also leave but the carpet store has told them to bug off as they obviously have a long term lease to stand behind…. but maybe my guess
    is wrong?
    Is a simulator concept something that Westporters and fellow FC
    residents want and would use extensively for private and party use? If so, I wish all involved much success…..but as I said before, the “local” feel good part of the equation hopefully doesn’t sway anyone.
    One last thing: 10 houses in back on an acre of land, clearly
    on top of one another? How about 5 instead? I know it’s all about making money, and you first ask for more than you know you’ll get approved for, but at this stage it all seems a bit much.

    Let the various commissions and neighbors have their say, and Dan please report back as things develop.

    • Thanks, Paul. I believe the Zobls do not need the entire space, which is why Redi-Cut is remaining. And the homes may be townhouses — though that has not yet been finalized.

  2. Just another pariah trying to New York westport — taking over and forcing one of the most coveted Restaurants Pane E Bene to move or close. Go back to NYC PEOPLE – you trying to mess with a beautiful small town all for money — hopefully P/Z realizes this and shuts this down !!!! Awful idea !!

  3. Michael Taets

    Great idea and seems like a fun addition to the town!

  4. Eric Buchroeder

    Nouveaux Westport at its best.

  5. Thanks Zobls for bringing this exciting concept to Westport and for investing in a building that is an eyesore in our town. This is a win/win for our community.

  6. Beth Berkowitz

    This sounds like an awesome idea for the whole community to enjoy the clubhouse! I think we definitely need more indoor possibilities as entertainment venues in westport. I remember driving to westport from Stamford for the movie theater and mini golf years ago. Now I live in westport and would love to have more here rather than having to go to Fairfield or Norwalk or Stamford for things to do inside. We have great amenities for outdoor entertainment, why not encourage more indoor spaces?

  7. This is the local “mom & pop” of the times, lead by two young, and very local, Westport residents, Tim and Emily Zobl, soon to be a mom and a pop themselves! Emily is a native, born and raised right here to parents who made Westport their home decades ago.

    The fact of the matter is that the property has been for sale for a while, and could well be redeveloped in any number of ways, including in ways that bypass our local regulations. Instead, these buyers are proposing an adaptive reuse of the building, and project that will work within our local zoning regulations, add to the diversity of our housing stock, and provide an exciting addition to our entertainment landscape while including a revitalization of an old and iconic building and property. Also, they’re keeping the beloved family-owned and operated Redi-Cut Carpet.

    PS – We’re huge fans of Pane Bene and hope Angelo finds a happy new home for his restaurant right here in Westport

  8. Julia Lynne Gross

    I believe there is something like this already in Fairfield at the complex with the ice skating rink/yoga0lace/restaurants but perhaps I am mistaken?

  9. New ways of socializing, making memories, and after school activities for the next gen of kids in a beloved town. I am loving this new breed of folks working to build commerce and family all while giving new experiences back to their community.

  10. Leala Morehouse

    As someone who grew up in Westport, I think this is an awesome and fun addition to the town that will help make it more attractive to younger people and families!

  11. What a wonderful idea! Westport desperately needs some indoor “destinations“ where couples and groups of friends can do more than just eat and drink. This sounds like such a fun idea, and Emily and Tim — great people — certainly have the business skills and local knowledge to make this a great experience for all of Westport. I hope everyone will support their effort!

  12. Brooke McGrath

    This is awesome. Having grown up in Westport, I can also remember getting on 95 in pursuit of any kind of “activity.” This sounds like a really fun addition to the ever-evolving town, and I love that it’s being spearheaded by a young, local couple that has deep roots in Westport. Very cool that they’re keeping Redi-Cut given its long history. Hopefully Pane Bene will be able to find another great lease in the area! Can’t wait for “The Clubhouse” to open. Sounds fun and like they’re approaching this project very thoughtfully.

    • Eric Buchroeder

      When Meta VR goes mainstream everybody will end up at home nibbling on Soylent Green.

  13. Trisha Jumper

    Just another big development to cause more traffic! Good luck getting down post road in that area if this goes through. How much more can the town handle?? Stupid idea to let any big developer- being local makes no difference – they are there to make money like anyone else. No more big development should be done until traffic issues are fixed. Westport wasn’t designed to handle this much new development. And I am very tired of people using the affordable housing angle to get their projects approved. 2 homes as proposed doesn’t make a dent in what’s needed. If you really want to make a difference why not make all of the units affordable, especially for the elderly who often can’t afford this area when they want or have to downsize!

  14. MaryAnn Meyer

    I suggest that those who have doubts about this plan may want to attend the hearing. You just might be surprised to learn that the property has been severely neglected. It has become a dumping area for an abandoned boat, a stainless steel industrial cabinet, mounds of excavated soil and oversized concrete blocks.
    This existing buildings also need tremendous updating and work to be brought up to code.
    The Zobls’ are very committed to this project as well as working with the Town and nearby neighbors. Their experience in the hospitality industry is also a plus.

  15. Michael Calise

    It wasn’t too long ago that We had Two golf driving ranges one in this general area and the “Top hat” on Hillspoint Road. In addition, we had two bowling alleys a miniature golf range and Arnie’s to top it all off. A little excitement is good for the general wellbeing

  16. stephanie foster

    I am so happy to read that this iconic Post Road property has the opportunity to get the improvements that it deserves vs. being destroyed. It is great to think that this space could thoughtfully be configured to house a family friendly community gathering place, keep Redi-Cut Carpet that is a staple of Westport, and add additional new affordable housing.

  17. This sounds like a real improvement compared to the structure that is already there. We need to encourage responsible new business development like this or we’ll end up with more run down buildings, fewer jobs, and a shrinking tax base. And what a fun and positive place for families, kids, and teens!

  18. Eric Buchroeder

    Looking forward to the ribbon cutting starring Jen and Foti.

  19. This is a great idea!!! Much better than other development happening around town. Emily put in a lot of time saving Old Mill Grocery and her and Tim will be excellent business owners. Wishing our fellow Westporters much success.

  20. Wendy Ferdinand

    Way to go, Tim and Emily! We are excited and grateful for your vision. Knowing you two, you will approach this project diligently and thoughtfully. This will be a wonderful addition to the area.

  21. Bobbie Herman

    I do hope Pane e Bene can be saved. If not here, then in one of the Westport restaurants that have recently closed. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best restaurant in town!

  22. Michael Brady

    Curious why the first try for this was shut down at the old Men’s Warehouse location.. neighbors concerns seems like the neighbors on George street , Landsdown , and High gate road have the same concerns!! Not to mention the possible contaminated area in the back of the property!! Terrible idea!!

    • That’s what I thought when I saw the plan – that George and especially Highgate are going to lose a lot of their privacy.

  23. My wife and I moved to Westport a number of years ago, mainly for the wonderful school system and beautiful outdoor facilities of Compo Beach, Longshore, etc. However, we’ve shared the frustration of planning activities with kids and families when we cannot be outside.

    This project is a wonderful idea to give kids (of all ages) and families an indoor activity, in an exciting area with the new Westport Inn and Tacombi.

    The developers clearly care about Westport and were behind the project to save Old Mill Grocer. It is great they are saving Redi-Cut Carpet and are willing to put the money, time, and work into restoring a very old and debilitated building along the Post Road.

    Why should families have to travel outside of Westport to enjoy indoor activities? Westport has charm but business areas need a refresh to stay active, vibrant, and with the times!

    Could be a great place to watch a sports game as well!

  24. This sounds like a thoughtful and fun addition to our town. Lots of people aren’t aware or have short memories that way back when Longshore was proposed many people opposed the “change” to Westport. Thankfully, the plan went through and is now one of our best assets in town. I look forward to seeing this develop and become a destination for people of all ages. Also, happy to see Redicut remain in place!

  25. Eric Buchroeder

    I get the idea behind the Clubhouse but what is the big deal over saving Redi Cut Carpet?

  26. These comments all focus on how it’s indoor space. But isn’t the planned roof deck one of the major issues for the neighbors?

    • Eric Buchroeder

      I’m sure they don’t like the idea of people engaging other people socially under their very nose but the traffic noise of the Post Rd has been there since before Biden made his last honest buck so I would say they could trot down to the nearest gadget store and pick up a set of noise cancelling headphones.

  27. Yay Zobls! Takes a lot of energy to launch a new exciting business in town-especially in entertainment. We look forward to enjoying time there. Thank you!

  28. Linda Frankel


  29. NANCY Telesco

    A correction to the write-up. They have NOT met with anyone on the streets that you mentioned. I live on one of these streets and we received a letter regarding the meeting on Monday. That is the first any of us have heard about the condos etc.

  30. I gather it will be better aesthetically however there is a human factor. I belong to several golf clubs and be assured the demand today will not continue. We have Angelo and his food and viwill survive golf. Why not inciincludehim and his reputation would give the project a chance to survive. Joe Rosetti 139 Landsdowne

  31. While this certainly seems like a good proposal to clean up an eyesore, I continue to take exception to the concept of the applicant’s personality, background or likeability as having any affect on planning and zoning decisions, or used as a “selling feature” to the public. The proposal is either factually compliant and/or good for the Town or it’s not. “The Clubhouse”, I believe, is a franchise concept, which is fine. However, by contract, as such, the operations of same are governed by the corporate franchisor, not the local franchisee. The franchisor also has the right to step into control of the unit if the franchisee defaults on their contract. In addition, once any discretionary approval is granted that becomes a precedent for future approvals, both on the subject property and any other similar applications in Town, no matter who the applicants are. A prime example of the fallacy of this was the medical marijuana application, during which the P&Z made a huge deal out of the fact the applicants were local folks and business owners who were really “nice people” and only had the best intentions for the use. At the time I voiced a warning that the applicant’s character should have nothing to do with the consideration for similar reasons I am expressing herein. My points were summarily dismissed and the application approved. Just weeks after the full approval was received and rights vested the “wonderful local owners” sold to a national medical marijuana corporation. Now, were they a “straw man” to front the application for the corporation to have a “local face” for better chance of approval? I have no idea, maybe they were just made an offer they couldn’t refuse afterward. The use of vague personal characteristics of applicants is not only bad form but is also possibly illegal and opens the Town to legal actions for denials as such might be considered “arbitrary & capricious”, spot zoning or even discriminatory. It also doesn’t matter if the actual record is “clean” if public statement by board members can be cited as evidence of bias, such as in a blog (sorry Dan). Again I think this application has merit and something that would benefit the town, let’s just clean up P&Z procedure/actions and narrow the scope of our analysis and pubic reporting.

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