Old party spot on Route 46 to see new life

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WAYNE – A former banquet hall on Route 46 will be redeveloped as a new commercial strip on the busy freeway.

XO Private Functions & Social Lounge has entertained countless mitzvahs, quinceañeras, sweet 16 parties and coming of age celebrations, but has failed to weather the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2.1-acre property, located on the east side of the freeway between the Fairfield border and Willowbrook Mall, was purchased for $1.5 million in November 2020.

The Planning Council recently approved a proposal to convert its empty building into a shopping center with two tenants who have not yet been named.

The site owner is a Woodland Park-based limited liability company doing business as Route 46 Auto Group, which has dealerships in Bergen, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris and Passaic counties.

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“We would like to modernize the building,” Philip Mastellone, vice president of the automotive group, told board members at a public hearing on the application. “It’s long overdue – long in the tooth.”

The building was first used as The Plankhouse, a restaurant which opened in April 1974.

“Our Prime Ribs of beef dinner is only $7.95,” he once boasted in a swaggering newspaper ad. “And that even includes a soup or green salad, a baked potato, coffee and our delicious cheesecake.”

The Plankhouse became El Torito, which served Mexican food and specialty drinks, and then Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, a now-defunct chain. Later, the building was occupied by Encore! Restaurant & Lounge.

In August 2014, the venue opened as an all-inclusive catering business.

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Mastellone said the building’s facade will be embellished with contemporary materials, such as aluminum and glass.

But he said his stamp won’t change. Drawings filed with the township’s planning department show that one retailer will assume 5,188 square feet and the other 2,965 square feet.

“We’re just looking to make it feel like it should,” Mastellone said, “considering it’s on one of the busiest roads — not just in Wayne, but in the state. of New Jersey. We see it as a gem that needs to be revitalized.”

The only problem for the council was the use of the property as parking for new cars.

The auto group had put vehicles there — without permission, apparently — because remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded a dealership it owns in Little Falls. He must file a separate application with the Zoning Board of Adjustment to continue using the storage.

Philip DeVententis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

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