After months in limbo, Mike Stollenwerk has finally gotten the go-ahead to open his long awaited Fathom Seafood House. On Wednesday, the chef and restaurateur gained the zoning board’s approval for his stalled restaurant, which he says he will now likely open the week of February 7. The holdup stems from zoning restrictions that stand in the way of any new restaurants opening in the East Girard Ave. neighborhood. It’s a holdover from the days when nearby Delaware Avenue was home to several large, nuisance-prone nightclubs. In order to get Fathom open, Stollenwerk needed to obtain a variance, which is much easier said then done. “Between the neighborhood and City Council no one wants to give you the okay, because they don’t want to be responsible if something bad happens,” Stollenwerk told Grub Street. “If we were on the other side of Frankford Avenue, we would’ve been okay.”
The zoning board only meets once a month, and issued a continuance for Fathom’s hearing in December. “The next available meeting wasn’t until January 19,” Stollenwerk added. “If we got denied, it would’ve taken another year to appeal it.”
Now back on track it will take Fathom at least two more weeks to schedule another health inspection. Stollenwerk said he already passed it once, but needs to go through the process again before going under review by the LCB to authorize Fathom to buy and sell liquor.
“I don’t see anything else that can delay us at this point,” Stollenwerk said.