Four of the five agenda items were restaurant-related licensing issues at this week’s meeting of the Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) Committee, part of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). There also was a zoning variance request from a Lincoln Wharf condo owner. ZLC meetings are informational only and there are no votes.
First to bat was Damien DiPaola, represented by attorney Michael Overson, with a beer/wine/cordials license transfer application at 54 Salem Street, formerly Eclano Restaurant. Mr. DiPaola plans to open a casual restaurant called Vito’s which will be his second establishment in the North End, after Damiano’s on Hanover Street. The existing license at 54 Salem Street has a 1:00 a.m. closing hour, 7 days a week.
The content of the ZLC Committee presentation was essentially the same as last week’s meeting of the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC).
ZLC co-chair David Kubiak asked whether there will be a bar in the restaurant. Mr. DiPaola responded that the bar will be mostly a service bar. The alcohol license requires food to be served with alcohol. “I don’t want people coming in just to drink,” said DiPaola.
Committee members asked about trash pickup. “We want to minimize the time that trash and receptacles are out on the street,” said Mr. Kubiak. “I agree with you 100%,” said Mr. DiPaola. “I keep the barrels in the building until the end of the night. The pickup comes between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. My employees arrive between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. to prepare for lunch.” Anne Pistorio said that some restaurants are changing their pickups to after 8 a.m. so that the trucks don’t wake-up residents at night. Mr. DiPaola replied that the schedule was determined by the company that serves up many other restaurants in the neighborhood. In answer to a follow-up question from Ms. Pistorio regarding the number of TVs, he said “There will be one or two TVs on the first floor.”
NEWRA will likely vote on this application at its regular meeting on February 10, 2011. The Licensing Board has set a hearing date of February 9, 2011 at City Hall, 8th floor. NEWRA will ask that its decision be deferred until after its vote. The Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) has already voted in support of this application. Both NEWNC and NEWRA votes are advisory to the Licensing Board.
Next on the ZLC Committee agenda was Marisa Iocco who is applying for a transfer of the Grezzo Restaurant license from 69 Prince Street to open a new restaurant at 78-80 Salem Street. After an extension last year by the Licensing Board, Grezzo’s owners were at risk of losing the license and needed to sell it by December 2010. (Licenses not used within a year can be rescinded by the Licensing Board.) There is currently a pending agreement between Ms. Iocco, building owner Chris Young and the Grezzo owners regarding this transfer.
The beer and wine license currently has a closing hour of 11:00 p.m., 7 days per week, although Ms. Iocco is asking to close at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Marisa Iocco is the former executive chef behind Bricco and Mare in the North End before opening in the South End at Galleria Italiana, La Bettola, South End Galleria and Spiga. She has recently begun selling prepared foods as well.
Seating would be 40 seats a plus chef’s counter. The overall capacity would be 49 persons. Ms. Iocco explained that “part of her passion is to have the customer feel like the food is prepared in their own home.”
Attorney Overson said he expects a zoning variance will be required for a change in conditional use. The location was formerly a salon. “The building department has not yet responded to our zoning application,” said Overson.
ZLC Co-chair David Kubiak asked if the Licensing Board will hear the application without proper zoning. Mr. Overson said he has asked that they hear the application and condition their decision on receiving the zoning variance. “For Marisa, she wants to know that she has the alcohol license before moving forward,” said Overson.
Anne Pistorio asked, “In your experience, which type of beverage most enhances the food?” Ms. Iocco said that wine is best. She noted that, “the menu will have recognizable entrees, the quality will be great and the prices affordable.”
In response to a question, Ms. Iocco said there will not be any outdoor tables or chairs on the roof or patio.
Jorge Mendoza complemented Ms. Iocco for opening on that end of Salem Street. “It is in rough shape and opening there is commendable and good for the neighborhood.”
NEWRA will likely take up this application at its regular meeting on February 10, 2011. The Licensing Board has set a hearing date of February 9, 2011 at City Hall, 8th floor. NEWRA will ask that its decision be deferred until after its meeting. The Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) has already voted in support of this application. Both NEWNC and NEWRA votes are advisory to the Licensing Board.
The next presentation was from Jorge Mendoza, who is applying to the Licensing Board to extend the closing hours for Vinoteca di Monica to 1:00 a.m., 7 days per week. The restaurant is located at 143-145 Richmond Street and currently has an all-alcohol license with an 11:00 p.m. closing hour Monday – Thursday and a 12:00 a.m. closing hour Friday – Sunday.
ZLC Committee co-chair, David Kubiak, recused himself from the discussion of this issue stating that he sent in a personal letter to the Licensing Board earlier this week. Co-chair Victor Brogna presided over the discussion.
The content of the presentation by Mr. Mendoza and Attorney Overson was largely the same as last week’s NEWNC meeting where the council voted to support the appliccation. Mr. Mendoza summarized, “I am doing this due to overwhelming demand from people that love the restaurant and the neighborhood. We see a lot of support for this application.”
Co-chair Brogna raised the question of what the Licensing Board said when the license was originally awarded in 2006. “My memo says that Chairman Potaski said that these (referring to Monica’s and Tresca’s licenses) are going to be 12:00 a.m. licenses, white tablecloth restaurants that are not going to turn into nightclubs.”
Mr. Mendoza replied with following comments: “We do not have 12:00 a.m. license today, we close at 11:00 p.m. during the week. Any of you that have been to Monica’s know that we have a very small bar (9 seats). We serve dinner in the same fashion there with one menu throughout the entire place. We are not in the nightclub business. Most people are not working 9-5, they are working and eating later. I have to tell people to leave. Our license demands that we serve food with alcohol. There was tremendous fear when we received the 12:00 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It has not been a problem. We serve lunch as well and brunch on weekends. We employ over 50 people, most who live in the North End. We are trying to make a living. It is not in the interest of my family to make this a nightclub.”
With no further questions, the discussion was concluded. The Licensing Board held its hearing on January 26, 2011 and will defer its decision until after NEWRA votes on February 10th. As always, NEWNC (which already voted to support) and NEWRA votes are advisory to the Licensing Board.
Next on the agenda was 357 Commercial Street (Lincoln Wharf) Units 712-713, where Nasser Buisier has filed an appeal with the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) seeking approval to enclose two existing outdoor patios to create additional living space.
Nassar and his wife Rita live at Lincoln Wharf and
are moving to a new unit on the top of the building, a triplex starting on the 7th floor. As part of the renovation, they wish to replicate what three other units have done on the top floor by enclosing the interior balconies of the two adjoining units.
The enclosure would have 6 windows creating a sun room. The enclosures face the interior and are not visible from Union, Burroughs or Battery Wharves. The proposed modifications do not impact the periphery roof decks on the North and South sides of the building.
Attorney Howard Speicher said that the Zoning Board of Appeal hearing was originally scheduled for this week, but they requested a deferral to April 5th to complete the neighborhood process.
The modifications have been approved by the Lincoln Wharf Condo Board, according to its Chairman Marc Hymovitz who was present at the meeting. The applicant is also a trustee of Lincoln Wharf. Hymovitz said the issue was discussed at their condo board meeting which was open to all owners. Mr. Buisier recused himself from the condo board vote. Hymovitz also said that the applicant has a school-aged son and the board encourages families to stay in the building. The added space from this enclosure would help that.
Regarding the question of drainage, the applicant said this will improve the existing condition on the roof. Dimensions of the area to be enclosed are approximately 30’ x 12’. The other enclosures that have been completed were previously approved by the ZBA. The North End is a restricted roof area and modifications need a zoning variance. Also, the building exceeds the allowed Floor Area Ratio.
Plans and photos were distributed at the meeting. Abutters in attendance, Bob and Monika Skole, said they may support the plan, but this was the first time they have seen the drawings. Anthony, a Lincoln Wharf resident, spoke in support of the application. He lives below the unit and the enclosure would be an improvement to the drainage condition.
NEWRA and NEWNC will vote on this item at upcoming meetings before the ZBA hearing in April 2011.
The co-chairs acknowledged Mr. Giorgio as a former NEWRA officer who was present with his wife Marian and son Albert, Jr. The family has owned the restaurant for 21 years. They currently have a beer/wine/cordials license and have previously failed in applications to upgrade it to all-alcohol because no new licenses were available.
The Licensing Board has indicated to the applicant there might be an all-alcohol license coming available in the near-term. This may be due to 13 new all-alcohol licenses coming from Logan Airport into the Boston neighborhoods.
Mr. Giorgio said that he has conditioned his application by agreeing to sell the existing license outside of the North End. Therefore, this process would not increase the number of licenses (currently 90) in the neighborhood.
There is no bar in the restaurant and the license says food must be served with alcohol. Closing times would be the same, 11:00 p.m. on Sunday-Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Committee members asked why an all-alcohol license is important to the restaurant? “People want a drink, either a real martini (not a fake one made with cordials) or a scotch or bourbon,” said Mr. Giorgio.
The Licensing Board will hear this application on February 9th. The decision will likely be deferred until NEWRA votes on February 10th and NEWNC votes on February 15th. See the Community Calendar for all upcoming neighborhood meetings and events.