Zoning War To Regulate Sale Of Spirits

Monday night update: At the request of attorney Chuck Willinger, the agenda item was deferred to the next meeting. Dozens of opposing package store owners were in attendance as well as several City Council members such as Eneida Martinez and Alfredo Castillo and former State Senator Ernie Newton in opposition.

Original story: A 40-strong coalition of city package store owners armed with neighborhood petitions is expected to attend Monday night’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting to oppose a petition by land use attorney Chuck Willinger to reduce “the 1500 foot distance requirement for proposed package stores from houses of worship, schools, hospitals and commercial daycare centers and include text regarding grocery beer permits.” The P&Z meeting is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. in City Hall council chambers.

One of the spearheads of opposition Rich Augustynowicz, owner of the Bev-Max on Wood Avenue, argues “Bridgeport neighborhoods need supermarkets not more liquor stores. Allowing such an amendment to pass will degrade neighborhoods further and devalue property, not to mention all the ills that could occur with this combination.”

Augustynowicz, a retired Stamford police officer raised in The Bronx, New York, told OIB if the 1,500 foot rule is reduced Bridgeport will become “Harlem in the 1960s.”

Willinger’s request to reduce the distance comes after Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe overturned a zoning decision he ruled benefited a politically connected applicant for a proposed store on Brooklawn Avenue on the West Side.

In January Radcliffe ruled the “fix was in” condemning political influence that approved an application for a package store opponents argued violated state law including former Republican State Senator Rob Russo, the lone dissenter on the Zoning Board of Appeals decision. Radcliffe ruled “Because the variances granted by the Bridgeport Zoning Board of Appeals are a condition precedent to the lawful operation of a package store … the Defendant is ordered to immediately cease and desist from the use of any portion of 1044 Brooklawn Avenue, as a package store.”

Last spring a steady stream of city politicians lobbied the ZBA to approve the package store application. The applicant Michael DeFilippo hired land use specialist Willinger to make the presentation to the ZBA. Willinger argued a hardship was present because the 1,500 foot rule prevents the building from being used for the desired purpose. He also claimed hardship based on the “need for this type of use.”

Radlciffe overturned the ZBA.

Now Willinger has requested that the P&Z amend the 1,500 foot rule.

DeFilippo, in an OIB commentary in January, clarified the intent of the amendment.

What the amendment does do is to require 750 feet between Bridgeport package stores and Bridgeport schools, houses of worship, commercial day care centers or hospitals. It also clarifies the longstanding position of the zoning office that grocery/beer permits are not subject to the 1,500 foot rule.

The proposed 750 foot distance between Bridgeport package stores and schools, houses of worship, commercial day care centers and hospitals is more than sufficient distance to protect the health and safety of Bridgeport residents although I believe there is absolutely no danger associated with a retail package store selling to adults where no alcohol is consumed on the premises.

I would further point out that in Stratford, Monroe, Trumbull, Fairfield, and Stamford, there are no distance requirements between package stores and schools, houses of worship, commercial day care centers or hospitals. In New Haven a package store may not be located within 500 feet of a school. In Milford a package store may not be located within 300 feet of a school, house of worship, or hospital. In Hartford a package store may not be located within 200 feet of a school, library, hospital, church, charitable institution or funeral home. There has been no adverse effect on neighborhoods in any of the above municipalities as a result of their zoning regulations.



  1. *** That’s a short 400 feet, your measurements are way off! No need to change the present ordinance because no moral city resident wants a package store across the street from a school, church, or daycare, etc. The ills of alcohol and its damage by overuse in society are well known! ***

  2. I’m still confused by what Rich Augustynowicz, meant when he said Bridgeport will become Harlem of the 1960s. Who’s he trying to scare with this rhetoric? Mojo, I worked at firehouse 3/4 for about 10 yrs and I’m not sure Bev Max is 1500 ft or 3.52 tenths of a mile from Curiale school.

    1. Assman, let me explain what happened in 1964, the great Harlem Race Riot!
      Just about every streetcorner in Harlem had a liquor store.
      So when the Brothers and Sisters kicked into Riot mode, they ransacked and torched every liquor store in sight.
      James Brown was televised immediately across the airwaves, but to no avail!
      Harlem was up in smoke!
      125th St. looked like Dresden back in WW2. I remember watching the glow from Fairfield Beach.
      After a few weeks the people of Harlem woke up to realize they had no place to purchase booze!
      Shock came across their faces, “where the fluck are we going to buy our BOOZE, man?” cried the people of Harlem.
      So most people from Harlem had to travel to other parts of New York to purchase their booze.
      So if you were riding the subway back in 1964 and you noticed a Brother wearing a ‘do rag and carrying a case of Colt45 and a bottle of Jack in his hip pocket, you said to yourself, now that Cu-da-buck is heading for Harlem!
      While Harlem was smoldering, the Manhattan shysters and jack-leg lawyers were marching into every Zoning offices surrounding Harlem, and demanding a hardship and a zone change just like Chuck (The Winnie) Willinger is trying do now!
      Assman, I’m sure Rich Augustynowicz is not trying to scare anyone.
      Now Winnie Willinger is another story, he scares the shit out of me!
      I hope the T&Z denies with prejudice so he can’t come back with more BS.

      1. *** James Brown was not Soul Bro. #1 in 1964 and I don’t recall him on any airwaves either until about 1968 after the death of MLK during a concert in Boston MA called the night James Brown saved Boston! I don’t believe he had but a few hits in ’64 with his Flames at that time. ***

          1. *** Appearing at the Apollo is not the same as going on the TV airwaves pleading with the folks of Harlem to “be cool” and not riot; go home Brothers and Sisters, go home! Performing on stage is not the same as asking folks on the radio or TV to “Please, please, please! *** WHOOP ***

        1. Mojo, remember this on Nov. 21st 2015 with Donald Trump, “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down and I watched in Jersey City, NJ, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

      2. Mojo, this dude and I use that word cautiously, is just like his boys Trump and Cruz, full of shit. James Brown wasn’t a big star in 1964 and at that time in his life had no pull in the black Harlem community.

        The fact is there is nothing in Harlem’s history that would indicate liquor stores were more targeted than any other white-owned store during the Harlem riots of 1964. One thing I’m absolutely sure about, you weren’t in Harlem in 1964 because Harlem was 93% black and white people were persona non grata and conventional wisdom tells me being the punk you are now, you were the same punk then, probably more so.

        1. *** If you would take the time to read the blogs a little slower, you would notice I never wrote I was anywhere near Harlem in 1964. I was merely making a point that James Brown did not go on the airwaves, TV, etc. asking the blacks in Harlem to be cool and not riot. However he did have a concert in Boston years later after the MLK killing and pleaded with the black citizens of Boston to stay home and listen to his concert instead of going outand getting in trouble. Try putting your glasses on next time and have a dictionary close by for a better understanding of the English language when you read the blogs on OIB! Also, your MOTHER didn’t think I was a punk then nor now! *** WHOOP ***

  3. Furthermore, this is not an arbitrary and capricious text amendment for one individual. If a mega-store like Total wanted to open in Steel Point it wouldn’t qualify under present zoning regs.

  4. Zoning laws are there to protect neighborhoods and in essence to protect the city or town. Then lo and behold you get a land-whore lawyer who shows up, dazzles the panel with bullshit and threats to get what he wants.
    Just a reminder, a hardship needs to be shown before this can go to ZBA but of course you have zoning official Buckley who says screw the zoning laws I am the law. There is already a court ruling on this item although it does not include the latest trick on lowering the required footage. Lawyers are devious bastards.

  5. No more liquor stores in Bridgeport. The obnoxious sales signage is a blight. Bassick kids have to walk past the dump of a store on Fairfield and Clinton every day, as an example.

  6. Grin Ripper, by the way I don’t understand your comment. Please explain. Are you being smug or just taking this matter lightly? Maybe you are just being entertained by us Bridgeporters while you live off in a surrounding suburb? Maybe you are just making some attempt at humor? Obviously you don’t want to give your name so perhaps you work for the City BTW go by the corner of Ridge and Iranistan to check out another Liquor Store beauty. What’s up with you anyway?

    1. Bob, you opened the blight door. I shut it with that blighted house next to beautiful former Zane Yost home. I don’t have to tip-toe through the tulips with you. I have always admired your passion for Bridgeport. I’m a free market guy who has spent many years like you fighting the good fight. I agree about that South End packy.

      I have never lived off the tit of the city. There is a remonstrance process to get rid of nuisance permits through the State Dept of Consumer Protection. I think you are suffering from some rabbit ears. I’m a home-brewed guy like you. Peace Out.

  7. I’ve attended a couple of ZBA meetings. In the BIG PICTURE, we need a professional Zoning Board of Appeals. I can swear they don’t even know what the zoning rules are or they don’t care. Another bunch of puppets. Another case of rubber stamps. Another case of bad governance in Bridgeport.

  8. What Zoning laws really mean: The Black community has made it clear. They want political clout to match their political might. Black votes matter. In other words, they want what comes from The Annex as much as they want what comes from the alter. I see the tax-exempt interests overpowering taxable enterprises. Nobody ever said Ganim was elected by liquor store owners.


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