Plans continue for Holyoke White Hut; The city council is in favor of granting a special permit

HOLYOKE – Plans continue for a White Hut restaurant at 825 Hampden St. City Council will vote on a special permit for Betlai LLC. at a meeting on Thursday evening.

On Monday, Edison Yee, the director of the restaurant group, appeared before a public hearing organized by the Development and Government Relations Committee.

Besides the famous White Hut burger chain, the Yee family owns several high-profile establishments in the area, including Johnny’s Tavern in Amherst, The Student Prince in Springfield and Iya, Johnny’s Bar and Grill and Johnny’s Tap Room, all in South Hadley. .

Betlai is to purchase the property from PeoplesBank, the current owner. Yee recently appeared before the Planning Board, asking for parking spaces to be reduced from 47 to 16.

He expects much of White Hut’s business to be takeout with a few customers dining. The Bean Restaurant Group’s Andy Yee and Peter Picknelly bought the West Springfield White Hut in 2020.

The structure at 825 Hampden St. was a branch of PeoplesBank. The bank closed the South Street location and branch, with operations moving to the former Yankee Pedlar, which was converted into a bank and financial center.

Betlai has applied for a reuse permit for the building and adjacent parking lot on Pleasant Street. Additionally, the company hired R. Levesque Associates for the planning process. The proposed fast food restaurant requires a special permit under municipal bylaws.

General Counsel Tessa Murphy Romboletti, chair of the committee, said the hearing gives members and the public a better understanding of the scope of the project. She said the city council considers whether a project results in a benefit to the community.

Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley said the plot was rezoned in June from Residential-2 to Limited Business. The new zoning triggers a special permit for fast food restaurants, he added. “It’s a fantastic proposition, and it keeps the momentum going in this area,” he said.

Alexandra Cichetti of R. Levesque Associates said the Planning Board approved the reduction in parking at its Aug. 9 meeting. The council inserted a six-month “rollback” condition on the special permit, forcing Betlai to reconsider the necessary spaces.

Nicholas Yee said that if parking issues arise during the lookback period, White Hut will rent additional space from a nearby business. However, he added that the Planning Council had asked for a “broad overview”.

Ward 5 Councilor Linda Vacon said, “To me this is a pretty straightforward ‘yes’ vote and I salute your investment in the city. I look forward to supporting it and am confident it will be a successful addition there.

General Counsel Joseph M. McGiverin said the White Hut falls under the neighborhood use component of the special permit.

In response to McGiverin’s concern about cleanliness, Edison Yee said White Hut staff will ensure the property is kept litter-free, “trash doesn’t fly around the parking lot”, and bins are emptied frequently.

Edison Yee said he had “fingers crossed” for a spring 2023 opening. The company plans to retain and rebrand an electronic time and temperature sign. He estimated that the restaurant would generate 15 new jobs.

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