Bistro di Marino Owner: 'I Want to Be a Good Neighbor'
Collingswood native Jimmy Marino says businesses like his contribute to improving property values, and he will work with his neighbors to improve conditions on the block.
After their neighborhood concerns became the talk of the town at last week’s commissioners meeting, it seems the residents of Gorman Avenue won’t have to wait long for results.
According to Bistro di Marino owner and Collingswood resident Jimmy Marino, a sit-down with Collingswood Police Chief Richard Sarlo put key issues on the table, and cleared the way for a better relationship moving forward.
“We’ve had some conversations with the chief of police, and I think we’ve resolved it,” said the restaurateur, who added that issues among residents and business owners “are all the products of a successful town.”
In the interest of keeping the peace, Marino says, he’s taken a couple of extra steps that he “technically didn’t already need to take,” like precluding outdoor deejays, and enforcing a strict, 11 p.m. cutoff for private parties.
“We’re going to do our part our best to keep it down,” he said. “I don’t want to disturb anyone, and I want to find a happy medium with [my] other neighbors.”
Still, Marino was insistent that the scope of the issue has been overblown. He chafed at the notion that noise and parking concerns on the small street begin and end with his establishment.
“I think there’s been three times since April of this year, three events that I would admit the deejay back there was a little bit much,” Marino said.
“The bottom line is this: I think the neighbors have gotten to the point where, on our end, they’re calling on every single thing.”
Marino emphasized that in soundproofing his courtyard property, he took great pains to ensure that the project would meet every threshold of borough code for outdoor dining. Marino says he lined his property with arbor vitae, installed a low-level sound system to baffle excess noise and “gave everyone the opportunity to come out” and see the property while it was in the planning stages.
“When I went to the planning board, I did my homework for six months making sure I was doing everything I could do so we could operate here,” he said. “The last words out of their mouths [were] those were the most complete plans they’ve ever seen.
“This is a restaurant town,” Marino said. “This is what the town wants. I didn’t just open up on Fern Avenue or Knights Park.”
As for the permit-parking situation, Marino said he suffers along with his neighbors. He owns three of the six buildings in the 400 block of Haddon Ave, and resides above the restaurant itself. Parking is hard to come by in Collingswood, he says, and if people ignore posted signage, he doesn’t feel responsible for that.
“There’s two huge signs that say don’t park there,” Marino said. “What am I supposed to do about it?
“All these residents live 100 yards from other restaurants,” he said. “I’ve shouldered the blame. There’s a restaurant across the street and a pizzeria—these things aren’t dead.”
Still, Marino said, he’s going to post signage in his window that reminds his guests to avoid parking on Gorman Avenue, and continue to seek other workaround solutions. One such proposal Marino said he’s tried for years would involve attempting to rent space from nearby Garfield School during evening dining and weekend hours. He said he’d discussed the opportunity with the school district, but they weren’t keen on the idea.
“I would be willing to put my insurance rider on the property and pay them a rent that was reasonable to use that space for parking,” he said. “If I were able to gain access to park my cars at night, I would love that. That would be the perfect solution.”
Marino is confident that community relations will improve on the block, and reasserted his contention that the restaurant business is what drives property values in Collingswood.
“Because I invested all the money I did in the 400 block of Haddon Ave., the value of the property has increased,” Marino said. “And that’s what’s happened all over Collingswood.
“You want to flash back 20 years ago, Collingswood was on the edge of turning bad,” Marino said. “I know that because I grew up in this town. My parents were considering moving. What changed that? Villa Barone. The first restaurant. Then all of a sudden, the house my parents wanted to sell was worth twice what it was 20 years ago.
“When you’re investing money and people are coming in, good places, boutique restaurants, everybody wants to move here,” he said.