Food & Drink

NEWRA Opposes Lucia’s Live Entertainment Application

Attorney Overson presents Lucia’s live entertainment application to NEWRA
Attorney Overson presents Lucia’s live entertainment application to NEWRA

With a vote of 49 against and 10 in favor, the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) opposed the pending live entertainment application at Ristorante Lucia. Attorney Michael Overson represented Donato Frattaroli who was visiting Italy, in part to deliver funds raised for earthquake victims. The application was for 1 vocalist, 2 instruments and a comedian up to 11:00 pm. Lucia’s is at 415 Hanover St. which is outside the commercial zone and therefore both a zoning variance and entertainment license is required.

The opposing result follows a favorable vote from the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) last month. Both groups are advisory to the City agencies. A hearing in front of the Zoning Board of Appeal is scheduled for January 12, 2010. If the ZBA gives relief, the application would then be filed with the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing.

The NEWRA membership was most perplexed with the request for a comedian, implying that “shows” were more like a performance than part of a typical dining experience. Attorney Overson answered this question, “Donato would say that this is the type of thing he would want.”

Others were more concerned about the general introduction of live entertainment. A Fulton St. resident said, “We’re a neighborhood, not the Las Vegas Strip.” Attendees believed that such activity belongs more in Quincy Market. The increasing number of families raising children in the North End was also a reason cited for opposing the license.

Despite the opposition, residents were extremely complementary of Mr. Frattaroli and his personal contributions to the neighborhood. The primary concern was stated as, “If you do one, you have to give it to everyone else.”

It was a crowded Nazzaro Center at the December 2009 NEWRA meeting where a record number of members attended. It was reported the group has 330 members.
It was a crowded Nazzaro Center at the December 2009 NEWRA meeting where a record number of members attended. It was reported the group has 330 members.

In a crowded Nazzaro Center, there was some vocal support including Stephen Passacantilli, who said it was “an opportunity to pat a good business owner on the back.” Pasacantilli is an abutter of Lucia’s, NEWNC President and a NEWRA member. He asked the audience to consider the individual applicant rather than create a blanket policy. As an abutter, he vouched for Mr. Frattaroli as a responsible business owner who has never caused problems.

Other questions were asked regarding amplification and previous entertainment at the location. One resident thought he remembered kareoke at the location. Attorney Overson said that the issue of amplification would be determined at the licensing hearing.

It was noted that the zoning would be a permanent change, surviving any future ownership transition (assuming it is exercised within 2 years of the change). One resident asked why should this one location be rezoned when there is already commercial/residential zoning that defines the area.

David Kubiak, co-chair of NEWRA’s zoning and licensing committee, reviewed the history of live entertainment licenses in the neighborhood, including Goody Glovers, La Dolce Vita and Fiore. Other than Fiore, applications have been withdrawn or denied. NEWRA opposed the Fiore application and the license was severely limited by the city agencies. The Fiore license is also in litigation.

A Snowhill St. resident pleaded with the audience to vote against the application based on quality of life issues. He mentioned the freedom that residents have already ceded to the restaurants with the constant congestion, noise, traffic, trash, clusters of smokers and valet parking problems. The Phantom Gourmet has referred to the North End as “a mob spectacle” and the Herald cited the “chaos of parking.” He believes the neighborhood is morphing into an entertainment district and will be advertised as such.

In a very articulate conclusion, Attorney Overson sympathized with the residents complaints but noted that the comments are disconnected from the application itself. The request is for small live entertainment on the border of a commercial zone. He noted that abutter, St. Stephens, has written a letter in support of the application. He summed up by urging residents not to punish Donato because of the actions of others and to use the vote to send a message rewarding a responsible business owner.

NEWRA had record attendance at the meeting with 59 members voting of which 49 opposed the application in a secret ballot. Earlier in the meeting, it was reported that NEWRA’s membership rolls have reached a new record high at 330 residents.

Related posts:
NEWNC Supports Lucia’s Live Entertainment License Request
NEWRA’s ZLC Committee Listens to Lucia’s Live Entertainment Proposal

12 Replies to “NEWRA Opposes Lucia’s Live Entertainment Application

  1. Why does zoning have to be a permanent change? Give Lucia’s a 3 or 6 month license and see how it goes. Seems like that would be the common sense thing to do but…I don’t think common sense plays into the NEWRA’s thought process. Nothing is forever…if there’s a violation, revoke the license. People who are calling that end of Hanover St. a "Las Vegas strip" are piling on the hyperbole, no?

  2. As far as I know, there is no law providing a trial or probationary period for the exercise of a zoning variance. The requirement is that it must be exercised within two years or it expires. As long as it is exercised, it’s permanent.

    Too much is being made of the support by St. Stephen’s Church. It should more accurately be described as support by the St. James Society priests residing in the rectory. These priests are missionaries. For most of their members, the rectory is a transit point on their way to South America and a place for R&R and health care. The few who permanently reside there are often on the road fund-raising. Their focus is understandably on their mission work, and they are uninformed about neighborhood issues. The letter is most likely a goodwill gesture to Donato, written without knowledge of the impacts to the community.

  3. Stephen Passacantilli is also an aide to the North End/Waterfront’s City Councilor, Sal LaMattina.

  4. When NEWRA starts taking PUBLIC votes instead of hiding behind secret ballots and a few members stop filing lawsuits every time the licensing or zoning boards don’t do things THEIR way, maybe they will gain the respect of the MAJORITY of people who live in the neighborhood. This group opposes everything. What a joke!

  5. A fundamental privilege in a democracy is the right to a secret ballot which protects a voter from harassment, intimidation and undue influence. This basic principle has been extended to other civic activities such as membership in NEWRA or anonymous commentary from a “secret poster” on a neighborhood blog.

  6. I’d like to explain to "Secret Poster" the difference between NEWRA’s & NEWNC’s voting procedures. NEWRA is an association of members. Any resident may join and vote. Voting is based upon the democratic principles of a written ballot as enumerated in the US Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. When any citizen goes to the polls and votes for President, Senator, Mayor, or City Councilor, he or she votes by "secret" ballot.

    NEWNC, on the other hand, is an elected body of representatives. So, similarly to the Congress, the Mass Legislature, or the Boston City Council, their votes are a matter of public record.

    And, as an aside, some North End developers, property owners, and business owners have also sued residents when things don’t go "their way."

  7. I meant to point out that when North End/Waterfront residents vote for NEWNC representatives every May, their vote is also by secret ballot.

  8. To equate NEWRA’s & NEWNC’s voting procedures to that of a presidential or other civic elections is laughable. Nothing is binding so why are people afraid to know where voters stand? "As far as I know, there is no law providing a trial or probationary period for the exercise of a zoning variance." Yeah, that’s kinda my point. Why no probationary period for these licenses? The fortune teller continues to use sidewalks signs so I’m not sure what any neighborhood groups’ votes mean anyway.

  9. I agree with Jimmy that talk of the North End turning into Las Vegas is gaseous hyperbole. Let’s focus on the issues of the North End, and how to keep our neighborhood business vibrant and healthy, while supporting responsible and creative entrepreneurs who present ideas that garner the support of neighbors and city agencies.
    Some posters here seem to imply that one of our neighborhood leadership groups is better than the other because one protects the secret ballot or the other embodies the virtues of the ballot box. As a member of NEWNC and a one-time (though not current) member of NEWRA, and as one who’s been involved with NECAC functions and who closely follows the activities of the North End Chamber of Commerce, I celebrate the diversity of activist organizations. Why should the compete, when they’ve co-existed so beneficially for so many years and have contributed to the finest neighborhood in America? I have some concerns for the excess of process that these groups place on proponents, and there may be some creative opportunities for collaboration that the groups can agree on, but I hope we’ll stop fighting over which organizations are "better" or more politically virtuous, and congratulate each other on how fervent we are in our civic passions.

  10. Let’s not even begin to try to sell NEWRA as "democratic." (Incidentally, we live in a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy.)

    Quantitiatively, it is not. NEWRA membership requires a payment. NEWRA voting is restricted according to recent attendance. NEWRA occurs at a specific time and place. There are no absentee ballots. New leadership is selected via a nomination process.

    Qualitatively, it is not: To start where we just ended, succession involves current leaders conducting a nomination process that amounts to hand-picking; id est, new leaders are de facto appointees. NEWRA is comprised mostly of activists who stand against a preponderance of proposed initiatives. NEWRA leadership typically stands on one side of the issue, and at the furthest point along the continuum towards said side. NEWRA puts forth agenda "musts," such as those so-called "good neighbor policies" that preclude case-by-case consideration (while unfairly disadvantaging new business, such as one cafe that must close at 11PM situated next to one that can close at Midnight).

    Operationally, it is not: At NEWRA’s annual party, one political candidate’s party favors were available. None for the other. Suddenly, our leadership suite reflects such an implicit endorsement.

    It is what it is. To put lipstick on that pig is just plain denial.

    Seasons Greetings!

    Disclaimer: this post in no way implies a position on any NEWRA vote.

  11. "Why no probationary period for these licenses?" The licensing process considers character and experience, and the license can be suspended or revoked if it is not exercised properly. Anyone can behave during a probation; that’s why continuing enforcement of the law is important. The zoning process considers the appropriate use of the building, taking into account the nature of the surrounding area. A use is either appropriate or it isn’t.

    Two points of agreement have emerged from all the meetings, discussion, and blogging. There are good, responsible business-owners in the neighborhood, Donato being one of them. There are also business owners who have taken an unfair advantage by ignoring the law.

    The good business owners, NEWNC, and NEWRA have common ground on this issue. We should together demand that City laws and regulations be enforced, and that those violating the law be appropriately sanctioned. This would level the field for the good business-owners. That, together with our enthusiastic patronage of their establishments, would be appropriate neighborhood support of the good business owners.

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