The North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (www.NEWRA.org) voted 27-4 last night to amend its existing “Policy on Approval of Alcohol Licenses & License Transfers,” clarifying the group’s position for earlier closing hours on alcohol licenses in the neighborhood. The City’s Licensing Board uses NEWRA’s recommendations as community input on license applications, along with that of the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (www.NEWNCBoston.org) and other public comments.
NEWRA’s policy change replaces the words, “hours of operation shall be no later than midnight” with the words, “the hours of operation for new licenses and for licenses transferred into the neighborhood from outside the neighborhood shall be no later than 11:00 PM Sunday through Thursday and no later than midnight on Friday and Saturday.”
“The wording here is consistent with the practice of the membership over the past few years,” said David Kubiak, Co-Chair of NEWRA’s Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) Committee. In response to a “concern raised a while ago that NEWRA might be looking to rollback existing hours,” he continued, “that is not the case. Existing licenses with later hours can be sustained, but not extended. We already have several 2:00 am and 1:00 am licenses. The balance is important.”
There was no vocal opposition to the policy change at the July 8th meeting of the association where 31 NEWRA members voted on the amendment, 27 in favor.
Victor Brogna, ZLC Co-Chair, said that NEWRA will hear all applications at the request of the Licensing Board. “One or two years ago, we declined to consider an application with later hours due to past precedent. The Chairman of Licensing Board said they wanted the input anyway.” Kubiak said, “This is our policy, but we will still review every application. Exceptions are possible.”
Donna Freni of East India Row asked about the practical meaning of the policy. “We just make community input, right?” NEWRA officers confirmed that assessment, indicating their vote was only advisory to the Licensing Board. NEWRA Treasurer Sanjoy Mahajan supported the amended policy saying it would help avoid having to negotiate hours with each applicant. A resident near Hanover Street asked whether this would minimize the 2:00 am disruptions currently experienced in the North End. Kubiak responded that “this policy will not let those disruptions grow.”
Michele Toper of Charter St. asked, “would this apply to permits for private parties?” She referenced a loud street party recently held at Twilight celebrating their 5th Anniversary. The police were called twice. Nicole Leo, neighborhood liaison to the Mayor’s office said they probably received a special permit. Special events are not specifically covered in NEWRA’s policy.
Kubiak also updated the attendees on the number of licenses in the North End/Waterfront area. According to NEWRA records, which may differ from City data, there are currently 90 “pouring” alcohol licenses operating in the neighborhood. NEWRA has a 91 license cap on pouring licenses. NEWRA does not have a cap on licenses for the retail sale of alcohol. There are currently 11 retail stores selling alcohol in the North End.
The policy change on alcohol license hours makes NEWRA’s policy consistent with the last “Good Neighbor Agreement” of the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC). However, it is unclear whether this policy is still current. It was created several years ago by then President Aaron Michlewitz who is now State Representative. NEWNC’s “Good Neighbor Agreement” also had a policy recommending an 11:00 pm closing hour during the week and midnight on weekends. Regarding caps, current President Stephen Passacantilli said at a recent NEWNC meeting that he does not believe NEWNC has a current cap on the number of licenses in the neighborhood. NEWNC is an elected group of up to 12 neighborhood residents that also advises the Licensing Board on alcohol licenses. Notably, NEWNC will hear an application for Cafe Nuovo at 76 Salem Street next Monday, July 12th. The application is for hours of operation up to 2:00 am.
NEWRA Policy on Neighbor Notification
NEWRA also voted 30-1 in support of a change to its neighbor notification policy. The change adds the sentence, “The written notification must be distributed so that it is received by Neighbors no less than seven (7) calendar days prior to the Zoning, Construction and Licensing Committee meeting at which the application will be presented.” David Kubiak said, “This does not mean that NEWRA will take them off the agenda if the applicant does not comply. We can’t lose the opportunity to take a vote and lose our input.”
Zoning Variance for 50 Snow Hill Street – Postponed
NEWRA postponed this agenda item because the applicant, Damian Szary, has not yet received a refusal letter from Inspectional Services. Pending this paperwork, NEWRA will hear the application at its August 12th meeting. NEWNC will hear the application next Monday, July 12th at its monthly meeting.