Food & Drink Real Estate

NEWRA “Tables” Fairmont’s Outdoor Seating

The North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) “tabled” its discussion on Fairmont Battery Wharf proposals for outdoor alcohol service at two restaurants.

Matthew Sterne, manager of the Fairmont Battery Wharf at 377 Commercial St, presented the hotel’s plans to amend its existing 2 am indoor license to add two distinct outdoor dining patios with a 10 pm closing.

The hotel is no longer pursing outdoor alcohol service for a third location at Building 5, which is closest to abutting properties at Burroughs Wharf and Lincoln Wharf. This was new information for most of the NEWRA membership. After a hearing at the Licensing Board, it became apparent that the private lounge area for its “Gold” premium guests may not be legal, according to Battery Wharf’s attorney Jim Smith. The hotel still plans to open the outdoor area for private use of its guests without alcohol service.

The two remaining proposed sites are at Building 3 for its existing Sensing restaurant with 86 seats and outside Building 2 with 62 seats. The Building 2 restaurant is not operating and could be leased to a separate operator other than the Fairmont. The seating addition for Sensing is about a doubling of its indoor seating capacity. Residents questioned whether Fairmont was obtaining a “hunters” license for another operator in Building 2, although any new operator would likely have to reapply for its own license.

Jon Larson, a resident at Burroughs Wharf, presented the audience with a letter from abutters at Burroughs and Lincoln Wharves to the Licensing Board asking for a reduction of seats. Burroughs residents also voiced complaints regarding the condition of Battery Street that was promised to be restored to its original state after construction. According to residents, some haphazard modifications were made in the past week, but major issues including a 1 ft+ curb remains where several people have been injured. Attorney Smith responded for Battery Wharf that they had paid the city for the restoration and the money is sitting in escrow. Mr. Larson indicated that City officials have questioned whether the money paid is sufficient.

Several neighborhood residents spoke up regarding various other issues:

  • Walkway at entrance is not wide enough and is difficult to navigate
  • Fitness club is not allowing neighborhood residents to use the facilities
  • Sensing is too expensive and out of line with other neighborhood restaurant prices

Sterne indicated that the hotel wishes to be a good neighbor and will be offering a 20% discount on its hotel rates for North End residents through the end of 2009. He also indicated that the hotel will be applying for an entertainment license for indoor use at weddings and events. There are no plans for entertainment outside.

NEWRA’s ZLC Committee co-chair, David Kubiak, indicated that NEWRA has been fighting for 10 years for every little thing from Battery Wharf. While there is a public benefit to some commercialization of the site, the developer and operator have been non-cooperative and unyielding on most items. Kubiak used the example of Joe’s American Bar & Grill that has half as many outdoor seats to give some perspective to the scope of the proposal. The ZLC Committee is also looking for signs inviting the public to the Harborwalk in addition to the restoration of Battery Street.

Sterne concluded the discussion with a statement that it “would be a shame not to have some outdoor patios” at such a scenic waterfront location.

Resident Sue Benveniste made a motion to table the proposal for an indefinite amount of time to allow for more discussion in the future.

The vote to “table” the issue was approved with 26 in favor and 13 opposed.