Owner Donato Frattaroli of Ristorante Lucia at 415 Hanover St. presented with his attorney, Michael Overson, at the November 24th NEWRA Zoning, Licensing and Construction (ZLC) committee meeting. Frattaroli has a live entertainment application pending for two instruments, one vocalist and a comedian in the basement portion of his 3-story restaurant on Hanover Street.
The restaurant is just outside the Hanover Street commercial district so a zoning variance is required in addition to a license from the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing. The zoning hearing is scheduled for January 12, 2010. The license would be for 7 days a week up to 11:00 pm.
The ZLC Committee meeting is for informational purposes only. North End residents will vote to support or oppose the application at the regular NEWRA meeting on December 10th, 7pm at the Nazzaro Center.
Similar to the Neighborhood Council meeting, the discussion at the ZLC meeting centered around the risks of setting further precedent for all North End restaurants versus the individual merits of the applicant. The neighborhood agrees that Lucia’s Frattaroli has been a long-time responsible business owner and resident. Concerns were expressed that it will be difficult to turn down future entertainment license requests. A comment was made that the North End should not become an entertainment district and that this license is a move in that direction.
- Donato does not believe that live entertainment will change the type of environment because people will be dining. One attendee raised the question of the comedian, which raises the level of entertainment to a performance rather than just dining music.
- What will prevent other restaurateurs from getting live entertainment licenses? Donato responded that he should not be penalized for the actions of bad restaurateurs in the neighborhood. He has done a lot for the community, is a responsible business owner and is a long-term resident of the North End.
- There is a bar in the basement, mostly for patrons eating or waiting for tables. There is no restriction in Lucia’s alcohol license. There will be no special fees/cover charges to see the entertainment.
- With regards to the zoning variance, it was questioned what the standard is for this type of decision. Lucia’s will present that the location is unique and just outside the Hanover St. commercial district. It was unclear whether the location falls within the Freedom Trail overlay zone.
- The basement has 3 egresses from the basement – Hanover St, Fairfield Place and Harris St. The basement is soundproofed with foam insulation. Handicap access is not required for entertainment. Donato noted that Lucia’s is one of the few North End restaurants with handicap accessible bathrooms.
- Donato raised the point that he is “trying to do the right thing,” by going through the neighborhood and City licensing process, unlike other restaurants that ignore the regulations and offer live entertainment anyway.
- Live entertainment would be helpful to his business during the slow seasons for gatherings and when business is down.
A ZLC Committee Co-Chair made the following statement:
“There have been five live entertainment applications that have come before NEWRA in recent years. All have been withdrawn or opposed due to neighborhood opposition. (Ed: It was not clear whether NEWRA supported the Strega license for a cappella singers.) There is no doubt that Donato is a good business owner and believes Lucia’s could mitigate the impacts raised at the meeting. However, the North End is oversaturated with restaurants, bars with large crowds having outgrown the sidewalks and blocking traffic on even side streets. It is difficult for residents to enjoy their own neighborhood. How do we control all of that? Should we draw a line in the sand?”
Donato responded that he agrees with most of the committee’s remarks and “hates the fact that Hanover St. is often blocked. It is disgusting how some others have ruined things.” The neighborhood has often tried to stop more licenses but political connections resulted in more of them being awarded. Donato believes a lot of the problem is with student drinking. “What about building owners, aren’t they responsible?” Donato does not want to be thrown in with the mix of other business owners and believes his application should be judged on the merits of his restaurant alone which has not had any complaints and been there for 30 years.
Attorney Overson framed the issue as “Does the organization want to send a message to all restaurant owners? Think about whether this application will increase these problems or not. If no, then approve it. This license will not be changing the nature of the operation so that noise and traffic will not be an issue.” He clarified that the license would not be transferable, but the zoning change would stay with the building.
It was noted that Fiore’s live entertainment license has conditions for only 1 performer at a time, no amplification, no piped sound to upper floor, no speakers and all doors and windows are to be kept closed. The ZLC Committee believes the Fiore application set the standard for live entertainment license conditions.
At it’s November 9th meeting, the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council voted 5-2 in favor of a live entertainment license application for Ristorante Lucia. The council added a conditional 6-month probationary period to its support.