The following is a guest commentary by Stephanie Hogue. As with all commentaries, the opinions expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of NorthEndWaterfront.com.
Donato Frattaroli’s application for a zoning variance to allow live entertainment at his restaurant, Lucia’s, requires careful consideration by the neighborhood. The North End is currently zoned as a mixed residential and business district, not an entertainment district.
And the North End, as Mr. Passacantilli remarked at NEWNC’s Monday meeting, “is at a tipping point.” Despite Mr. Passacantilli’s observation, the Council’s deliberations focused on the desires of restaurant owners, with no substantive response to concerns raised by residents at the meeting.
During a discussion that was dominated on the Council’s side by Jorge Mendoza, the Council presented the few in attendance with the following.
A number of restaurant owners are doing whatever they want without the required licenses and permits. The good restaurant owners, who abide by the law, require some incentive from the neighborhood to encourage them to remain law-abiding.
Therefore, North End residents should reject any “blanket policy” regulating allowed uses. Instead, the residents should consider applications on a “case-by-case basis,” and effectively re-zone the district by supporting variances to allow live entertainment for these good owners.
This comes close to suggesting that the neighborhood should bribe those who haven’t broken the law yet.
The proper response to violations of the law is for the appropriate City agency to enforce the law.
Zoning reflects a community’s agreement on uses that are compatible for their neighborhood. Variances are intended to provide relief from a particular circumstance that makes it difficult for an owner to exercise the allowed use of the building.
The restaurant owners do not each have a particular circumstance. They have a common problem: the North End has a lot of Italian restaurants.
Each owner is trying to distinguish his restaurant from all the other restaurants with the same theme and the same basic cuisine, in an effort to attract a bigger share of customers coming from outside the neighborhood.
In trying to support the restaurants, the neighborhood is caught in an escalating spiral of applications for alcohol licenses, for longer hours of operation, for outdoor seating, and now, for live entertainment.
But, the competitive advantage of being among the first to offer live entertainment will be lost as each good owner gets his entertainment license. And we will escalate again with applications for more entertainers, for different entertainment, for entertainment on every floor.
We are at the tipping point. If we choose to tip the balance, the neighborhood may not be able to live with the new zoning we have created, case by case by case.
This is my personal opinion as a resident and doesn’t reflect any NEWRA position.
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