Food & Drink

Guest Commentary on Live Entertainment Licenses

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.

Stephanie Hogue

NorthEndWaterfront.com welcomes guest contributions on neighborhood issues which can be submitted to info@northendwaterfront.com. Comments or responses to this commentary can be posted below in the comment section.

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5 Replies to “Guest Commentary on Live Entertainment Licenses

  1. While I agree with all your points and your philosophy on this matter, I would caution you against suggesting that all of the Italian restaurants serve the same basic cuisine and are not already distinguished from one another.

    While there are arguments citing the date to as late as World War II, I go by the marker of Rome. In that case, Italy was unified when Rome voted for union and became the capital in 1871.

    Dinner at Maurizio’s and dinner at Al Dente are two totally different experiences. We have Tuscan food, Sicilian food, Neapolitan food, and on and on. Not only do the numerous regions and historic state boundaries in Italy contain unique culture, culture and linguistics vary from neighboring village to neighboring village. Furthermore, there were dozens of native tongues throughout Italy.

    While there are certain areas of Italy from which many people arrived, our cuisine in The North End has diversified over the years. Some places make a point of serving dishes from different regions.
    Some are more regionally specific.

    While I can cook a lot of stuff you’ll find in Naples, I couldn’t survive an hour in a kitchen in Verona.

  2. I agree that the noise level and entertainment in our beautiful little hood is at a "tipping point".

    I do however feel that if licenses are going to be given for entertainment and such, that owners like Donato Frattaroli should be at the very top of the list in receiving them. Donato has done so very much for our neighborhood and he and his family are good, honest people (his mother is the famous Lucia, and his brother Filippo owns his own restaurant at the corner or Commercial & N Washington Streets.)

    Also, I understand what the poster (above) meant, but when it comes to tourists, they mostly can’t tell our restaurants apart.

  3. Thanks for the interesting info about the regional cuisines, Brianna! But I do agree with Ellen that the average customer coming to the North End probably isn’t aware of these distinctions. My impression that the restaurant owners are having a problem separating themselves from the crowd came from listening to their remarks in support of various applications over the last couple of years. They tell us they need alcohol, longer hours, etc. That tells me the cuisine alone isn’t enough.

    Ellen, I’d agree that IF (and that’s a big if) we’re going to grant variances, Donato should be first in line. But let’s not kid ourselves that there isn’t a line right behind him. Jorge made that very clear at the NEWNC meeting. I think the reason Donato is first is precisely because he has been so good to the neighborhood that we feel bad not giving him this.

    Look, we’re being asked to make a permanent change in our neighborhood for the temporary benefit of one person. Someday, Donato will no longer be the owner of the business at that property. But that property will still have a variance allowing entertainment.

    Entertainment will draw more people into our neighborhood, looking for a good time. When is the line crossed from being a vibrant neighborhood to being an entertainment district, unappealing to anyone looking for a long-term home? What happens to the market value of residential buildings and condos when that happens?

    The suggestion that we can control who gets the licenses overlooks the fact that City authorities make the decision, not us. Just consider the whole discussion about lack of enforcement and ask yourself how much the City really cares about quality of life in this neighborhood.

    We can make our strongest stand right now, by saying this is not good for the neighborhood. Once we allow a variance, we’ve set a precedent for everyone else in line behind Donato. I think the City will be happy to give out the licenses once we open that door.

  4. Yeah, the tourists cannot possibly come here with any foreknowledge of Italian cuisine. Not one. I mean it is just so ethnic and out of reach to the consciousness of the everyday man. I mean, let’s not hold pervasive prejudices against Italians as a bunch of grease balls or anything. I keep hearing commentary that puts us in boxes and it makes me cringe. We are just as diverse in our opinions, cuisines and positions on the issues as everyone else. That’s all I am saying. And in fact surprisingly more diverse in our cuisine. While I realize the arguments restaurant owners use, tourists usually have no idea where they will end up or what is going on inside. Sometimes.

    NEWRA needs heightened sensitivity. It seems there is a license to say anything about the "old world," "old timers," and what-have-you. I think I have a right to assert this, especially after the blog wars surrounding student noise, during which a lot of people representing themselves as students and young professionals called us names and said we are dying off anyway.

    Uncool.

  5. I wish there was a way to give such good owners like Donato a deserved boost, then restrict the line of people behind him who want the same.

    *sigh*

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