Caffrey’s Denied Rebuilding As-Is, Owners Continue Efforts

Photo by Ali Gradzki

LACEY – The question on a lot of residents’ minds is: Can Caffrey’s rebuild? Numerous locals and Caffrey’s supporters flocked to a recent township council meeting to inquire if the owners will be able to, and when.

It’s been more than a month since the Sept. 5 fire that took out the beloved Caffrey’s Tavern on Route 9 in Forked River. Since that fateful day, fans of the restaurant have been calling for restoration of the popular restaurant, some calling it “the heart of the town.”

However, according to township officials and zoning regulations, rebuilding will not be an easy task. Owners Dan Coleman and Joe DePasquale were denied their request to rebuild as-is due to the fact that the building predates updated zoning regulations.

According to the township Zoning Officer, Loretta Rule, Caffrey’s zoning application was denied under code 335-8, which states: “No building shall be erected and no existing building shall be altered, enlarged or rebuilt, nor shall any open space surrounding any building be encroached upon or reduced in any manner, except in conformity with the yard, lot area and building location regulations designated for the zone in which such building or open space is located.”

In other words, as Caffrey’s current building (or what is left of it) stands, it does not match current zoning regulations, and therefore it must comply in order to rebuild. A main issue with compliance is that the building needs to be set back further from Route 9 under current regulations.

Photo courtesy Nancy McCarthy Dolan Riker

According to a report by WOBM, Coleman stated that they should be allowed to rebuild on their existing site, as more than 50 percent of the original building is still intact after the fire, according to a licensed architect who inspected the site. “We believe we are not required to move it back,” said Coleman during the meeting.

According to the owners, the foundation and most of the walls of the restaurant were not destroyed by the fire; it was mostly the roof above the bar that was taken out.

Township Committee members were sympathetic to Coleman’s cause during the meeting, wishing to see Caffrey’s rebuilt, like most other members of the community.

WOBM’s report quoted Councilman Gary Quinn: “Caffrey’s…it’s an icon in the community,” but the council cannot bend the rules to allow for rebuilding as-is. If they did, “every developer that comes in is going to use that precedent moving forward,” according to Quinn.

Coleman intends to appeal the denied application with the Zoning Board of Adjustment. If denied there, the owners can appeal to superior court.