As beach weather nears — and we head into our 2nd summer without an Old Mill Beach restaurant — many Westporters wonder what’s up with the old Positano property.
It was purchased in 2014 by Gibby Cohen and his family. They live nearby — on land where they could build a 15,000-square foot house — but they did not need or want one that big. The Cohens figured 3,000 square feet would be fine.
The Positano plot — diagonally across from Elvira’s; for many years the site of Cafe de la Plage, briefly the Beach House, and long before all that Joe’s Store — was perfect.
The Cohens soon realized, however, that many neighborhood residents — on Hillspoint, Compo Hill and surrounding streets — wanted a restaurant there. It brought life to the area. And the existing building provided scenic views, which a new structure might block.
The Cohens were happy to acquiesce. They’re not interested in running a restaurant themselves. But they’re quite open to selling (or, worst case, leasing) their property to a restaurateur.
At least one neighbor objects. Ellen Van Dorsten — who opposed Positano’s application for patio dining in 2012, and helped lead opposition to saving Allen’s Clam House before that — is suing the Cohens. She hopes to prevent a new restaurant on the Positano lot. The suit will be heard in November.
Van Dorsten was not the only resident opposed to the 2012 patio petition, for 4 tables seating 16 diners. Other neighbors also protested. The restaurant owners cite the lack of outdoor seating as one factor that forced them to relocate. Their new restaurant is next to Westport Country Playhouse.
Now, however, neighborhood sentiment seems to be coalescing around a restaurant — rather than a new-construction home — on the property.
This seems like an ideal opportunity for a well-known, highly respected restaurateur to open a new, seafood-oriented place, in a building with a historic past and neighborhood support.
Joey’s by the Shore Clam House, anyone?
NOTE: Gibby Cohen declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. Requests for comment from Ellen Van Dorsten — by phone and email — were not returned.