ATLANTIC CITY —The owner of a popular Gardner’s Basin restaurant faces an uncertain future as officials speculate about whether adding a new restaurant could force the older one to close.
Kyle Williams, owner of the Back Bay Ale House, approached Mayor Don Guardian last week for support in asking the National Parks Service to protect his restaurant from land-use regulations on the area.
“At the end of the day, I’m confident everything is going to work out,” he said. “I’m not worried about it at all, I know (Back Bay) is going to be there.”
The city received funding from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund when the Gardner’s Basin park was established in the 1970s. That funding came with requirements for businesses there to support conservation, recreation and open space, which could limit the number of local restaurants operating there.
The National Parks Service has been working to determine the intent of Gardner’s Basin and found there was no need for several restaurants, said Jack Howard, manager for the state and local assistance Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“Multiple restaurants seem to be excessive in regards to what an LWCF site is,” he said.
Gardner’s Basin currently has two restaurants, but residents learned in August a developer was approved to redevelop the land and take over the land lease. Part of the proposed plans were to have a new pier restaurant where the now-demolished Scales Restaurant was.
But that creates a potential problem for the existing restaurants, officials said.
City Council passed a resolution in September to approve the lease and management agreement for Scarborough Properties. If a new restaurant were to open, as stated in the developer’s proposed plans, Back Bay could have to close, Howard said. Normally, sites that received LWCF funds don’t have three or four restaurants, he said.
Scarborough Properties representatives have not responded to requests for comment on the redevelopment plans since August.
At first, Williams said, he was afraid the 15-year-old restaurant would definitely have to close. While he has a lease for the area for the next three years, and said he knows neither the city nor the developer want his restaurant kicked out, he hopes asking the National Parks Service will help clear up land-use regulations to allow three restaurants in the area.
Williams met with Guardian last week and asked for his support. Guardian called Back Bay Ale House one of the most popular restaurants in town.
“I’ve always been supportive of them; they’ve been there for 15 years,” Guardian said Friday. “I don’t think an extra restaurant is going to deter the use of the park. It’s going to encourage the use of the park.”
Guardian said if Back Bay were to stay open, people would continue coming to the area to eat and drink, but also take the opportunity to use outdoor amenities.
“I’m asking National Parks Service to come back and reconsider this,” he said.
Williams said if parks officials saw the attendance the restaurant brings to the area during the summer, they could reconsider.
“Everybody who knows Back Bay knows that they bring a lot of people to the park and it’s a popular restaurant,” he said.
Howard added each park that received the federal funding is different. There are no set rules on how many restaurants can operate in one area, but the intent of each park is assessed before redevelopment. This site was determined this year not to need multiple eateries, he said.
Earlier this summer, Gardner’s Basin was the site of frustration for the 10 crafters who operated retail sheds there.
The crafters, who sold jewelry, decorations and homemade items, were found to not be in compliance with National Parks Service regulations.
They were told to cease operations after Labor Day and to empty the sheds by the end of September. The city is working to find an alternate location for the crafters, Guardian said.