Haddon Township Greenlights Restaurant & Cocktail Bar from Hearthside Owners


Dominic and Lindsay Piperno plan to introduce their contemporary fine dining eatery and cocktail lounge to Haddon Avenue within a year to a year-and-a-half.

By Matt Skoufalos | February 2, 2024

Chef Dominic Piperno presents plans for his new Haddon Township restaurant and cocktail bar. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Piperno Hospitality Group, the team behind the fine dining restaurant Hearthside in Collingswood, will officially begin work on a second, as-yet-unnamed restaurant and cocktail bar just a mile down Haddon Avenue in Haddon Township.

In a marathon meeting Thursday night, the Haddon Township Planning Board signed off on the group’s plans to redevelop the shuttered property at 105-107 Haddon Avenue into a 145-seat, indoor/outdoor fine dining establishment.

Plans for the 14,000 square-feet property have been long in the making since the husband-and-wife team of Dominic and Lindsay Piperno first announced them in late 2020.

With approvals secured, the couple hopes to break ground on the project soon, and complete it within 16 to 18 months. The original targeted opening of 2022 is well in the rear view..

“It’s been over three years of owning the property, and then COVID, and then trying to get Hearthside [back to]. where it was,” chef Dominic Piperno said Friday morning. “Last night felt like the true first step.

“We’re going full-steam,” he said. “That building in Collingswood, from shovel to opening night, was 12 months, and we’re hoping to be in that similar timeframe. The faster we can do it, the better it is for the neighbors.”

The new restaurant menu will be built around a concept similar to the seasonal, contemporary American cuisine served at Hearthside, with an emphasis on variety, from house-made pastas and flatbreads, to shellfish towers, raw seafood, salads, and vegetables. Its kitchen will feature a wood-burning hearth, which forms the backbone of the charred flavors presented at Hearthside.

“We want it to be fun,” Dominic Piperno said. “We don’t want to limit ourselves to any specific type of menu.”

The bar program will be built around “proper cocktails,” he said, including house-made sodas and mixers, fresh juice, and “very extensive, zero-proof” spirits.

The chef described the interior of the space as presenting a “lounge-y” feel, with big booths, circular lighting fixtures, and a “showstopper of a bar,” offset by an indoor fireplace at the rear of the main dining room, and a drink rail for guests to imbibe while awaiting their seats.

Customer flow will be directed through a reception area at the entrance of the restaurant through to drinking and seating areas, with an emphasis on a heightened guest experience throughout.

Interior restaurant detail for Hearthside project on Haddon Avenue. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“We’re not going to allow people to pile up at the bar,” Dominic Piperno said. “We really want to have people come in and relax after work, order a nice martini, and have dinner with their spouse, or their buddy, or their coworker, and not feel that they’re rushed.

“I want it to get back to that romantic feeling of going to a restaurant, going to a bar, putting your phone down, and enjoying conversation with the bartender, with the person next to you, and food that represents the area and the present day,” he said.

The restaurant also includes outdoor seating for diners at al fresco tables along the side of the property, plus a larger lounge in the rear of the building, complete with a fireplace and greenery. Stricken from original plans for the space were an outdoor bar; instead, seated guests will be accommodated by a service bar in the interior of the building, which Dominic Piperno said will cut down on outdoor noise in the surrounding neighborhood.

The building at 105-107 Haddon Avenue — which alternatively served as a laboratory space, furniture showroom and warehouse, batting cases, and a mixed-martial arts gym — has an unusually outsized impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Its rear structure borders 10 backyards on properties with frontage on East Walnut Avenue and Cooper Street, and has historically been a source of flooding.

The chief concerns for neighbors in attendance centered on the impact to their households from added traffic, noise, light, and activity related to operating a restaurant and cocktail bar.

The Pipernos’ plans to resolve those issues involved demolishing the rear of the building, and replacing it with a fenced-in, LED-lit, complementary valet parking lot hemmed in by greenery. Beneath it, a catchment system would absorb stormwater from the surrounding area, and divert it out to drainage at Haddon Avenue.

“We’re creating a large underground storage area to take that runoff,” planner and engineer Clifton Quay testified at the meeting. “We took into account the watershed area from the surrounding properties to make it able to take in that additional water, and be able to handle that.

Engineer Clifton Quay review storm drainage proposals for the Hearthside restaurant site in Haddon Township. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“This is going to make a huge difference with the drainage system behind all those homes,” Quay said.

“We believe it’s going to be a significantly better condition than what’s out there currently.”

Dominic Piperno testified that the restaurant would not seat guests outdoors later than 9 p.m., and would close down al fresco dining at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and by midnight on weekends.

To curb disruptions to the neighborhood, the entire property will be smoke-free, with no live entertainment.

“We don’t want to be a bar that’s open until 2:00 a.m.,” he said. “It’s not a sports bar. There’s no televisions or live music. We’re serving cocktails and dinner.

“We understand we’re a little different from most restaurants on Haddon Avenue,” Dominic Piperno said. “We’re well aware that we’re putting in an outdoor area. We don’t want people out there until 11:00, keeping neighbors up.”

East Walnut Avenue resident Scott Hulteen, who works as an acoustical consultant, worried that the proximity of the adjoining properties to the proposed outdoor dining area would create a disruptive environment for neighbors.

“It’s 12 feet to the closest property,” Hulteen said. “With sound, it’s all about distance. The farther away from something that you are, the quieter it is. This outdoor dining area is extremely close to the property line.

“The shape of the site constricts how far you can put things away,” he continued. “I’m not sure the noise ordinance can be met, and I’d urge the board to have a third party study this.”

Hulteen’s neighbor, Joseph DiCriscio, worried that the volume of increased traffic to the neighborhood would disrupt his household. DiCriscio said he has small children and works from home, and worried that the project is “just not going to be conducive to families.

“I’m concerned if someone is going out there to have a cell phone call at 1 in the morning,” he testified.

Rich Villa of Ambit Architecture presents the new restaurant from Hearthside owners at Haddon Twp. planning board meeting. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Other neighbors, like Jeff Hamilton of Cooper Street, welcomed the project, and urged the planning board to offer the Pipernos a variance from the six-feet-tall fence limits defined in the Haddon Township ordinance, the better to insulate neighbors in the rear of the property from environmental spillover from the restaurant.

“I think it needs to go eight if not 10 feet, especially with 10-feet lights,” Hamilton said.

“The more privacy, the better.”

“We would be more than happy to build as high of a fence as you guys would allow us to,” Dominic Piperno responded. “We want to be great neighbors; we can pick out the fence with the neighbors. We understand that our outdoor area is very close to their backyards.

“We don’t want to be a nuisance,” he said. “We just want to open and operate a really beautiful restaurant in this town, and get that disgusting building out of people’s backyards.”

Piperno’s assurances that the rear lot would mitigate existing stormwater issues; that the fenced-in and modestly lit rear valet lot would not be accessed by patrons, nor off-duty staff; and that the garbage would be contained within a purpose-built trash enclosure seemed to resolve most of the concerns with the proposal.

Other neighbors were more effusive in their support for the redevelopment.

Kathleen O’Malley of Sunset Lane described the restaurant as “a huge improvement” to an underused lot, and endorsed Dominic Piperno as a conscientious neighbor based on his track record in Collingswood.

“Anyone who has visited your restaurant knows that you care about this community,” O’Malley testified. “You care about how it looks. You care about what you serve to your customers, and you elevate everything you touch.

“I think what you’re proposing is beautiful, and what I keep hearing is you want to be a good neighbor, and that’s what I see you demonstrating at your restaurant in Collingswood,” she said. “If you reflect that thoughtfulness in that space, we will be better for it.”

Map of new restaurant at 105-107 Haddon Avenue in Haddon Township in neighborhood context. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Cooper Street resident Steven Zimmer sought to address traffic concerns by pointing out that almost no application for the lot in question could meet the established township parking standard.

“Whether they tear down the backside or it stays an empty warehouse, somebody’s going to be arguing about parking because the original building was built in 1965,” Zimmer said. “Either way, the building’s a problem, and needs a variance one way or another.

“I think that this is a very creative way to deal with this,” he said. “I think this is a huge help, and it solves a lot of people’s problems with regards to the drainage.”

Ultimately, the board seemed to recognize the inherent complications of designing the project for the existing property and within the established statutes, and granted the applicants numerous variances — including those for onsite parking, fencing setback, and coverage area — in its unanimous approval.

Planning board member Jim Stevenson, who is also the Haddon Township Director of Public Works, summed up the general attitude of the governing body in his remarks.

“What’s being proposed is consistent with our master plan,” Stevenson said. “Another liquor license along Haddon avenue, that’s the plan. That’s what every professional planner has told us to do, and that’s why your property values have increased.

Expanded view of Haddon Twp restaurant project from Hearthside owners. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“It will greatly improve the drainage issue out there,” he said.

“Any time there’s new construction, I’m sure there’s going to be some hiccups along the way, but things work out, and every location has worked out for the better.”

For the Pipernos, the opportunity of doing business in Haddon Township with their Collingswood location up the road represents a chance to leverage complementary processes at both sites, while adding some 40 new jobs in the Haddon Avenue commercial corridor.

“We’ve been asked to open up in Moorestown and Voorhees, but we wanted to be in Haddon Township,” Dominic Piperno said. “After the meeting last night, it just solidified that this is the place.

“We’re just so excited to be part of the town,” he said. “We’re excited that the board saw our dream, and it’s now becoming a reality. We want it to be fun; we want it to be a vibe. We want to cater to people in our style.”

Follow the progress of this project on NJ Pen as we track it from approval to opening day.

Please support NJ Pen with a subscription. Get e-mails, or follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


Comments are closed.