It was a confusing sequence of votes at Thursday’s North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) meeting as the advisory group tried to weigh in on the application for 76 Salem St., Cafe Nuovo by Vincent Ferrara.
Three ballots were used by NEWRA members. The first was for a motion to support the beer/wine license application with the following conditions: (1) 11:00 pm closing on Sunday-Thursday and midnight on Friday/Saturday, (2) no bar and (3) alcohol service only with food. This motion was questioned by attendees because the application was for a midnight closing hour, 7 days/week, not 11:00 pm closing on weeknights. The motion was withdrawn and votes were not counted.
The second vote was 18-8 supporting an amendment of the application to add the three conditions. Then, a third vote of 18-6 supported the application with the conditions, as amended. (Ed: I could have this a little mixed up. There was a lot of confusion. In my opinion, NEWRA needs to find a better way to handle these votes because many members were frustrated with this convoluted process.)
At the end of the process, President Mark Paul announced that NEWRA’s letter would reflect support for the new license, but only for an 11:00 pm closing from Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday/Saturday. The applicant said he would only agree to midnight, 7 days/week. Other NEWRA conditions included serving alcohol only with food and “no bar” to be located at the establishment.
Regarding the closing hours, Ferrara said he originally applied for a 2 am license but compromised to midnight as requested by the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC). “I don’t not think 11 pm versus 12 am makes a big difference,” said Ferrara. “There is no bar and the focus is on food.” He also noted that he has cleaned up a building that was an eyesore and used by vagrants. The café will not serve lunch, just breakfast and dinner. NEWNC supported the application with a midnight closing on the license, 7 days/week.
Tom Schiavoni asked for a clarification on what time a 12:00 am license meant for people to leave the establishment. Victor Brogna answered that a 12:00 am closing means that all patrons have to be out by 12:30 am, a half hour after the time cited on the license.
The request for a new license may be denied if there are no new licenses available under the State’s cap. The Licensing Board already held its hearing and is waiting for NEWRA’s letter before making its decision. At the hearing, the Board indicated they might not be able to award a new license. (Note: The State’s cap is not related to NEWRA’s internal 91 license cap for the North End, which is only advisory in nature.)
Vice-President Stephanie Hogue asked if Ferrara had tried to buy one of the three existing licenses that are not being used in the neighborhood. He said they were asking $70,000 for a transfer which he could not afford.
Jane Mead asked the applicant if he would agree to an 11pm weekday closing time? “I would like the extra hour, though most nights the café will close before that anyway.” replied Ferrara. He further indicated that he would not accept an 11:00 pm closing in the license even if NEWRA votes that way.
The applicant noted that Antico Forno, across the street, has a 1:00 am closing hour in their license. Victor Brogna said that Antico Forno has posted hours on their window indicating a closing of 10:00 pm Sunday-Thursday and 10:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Sanjoy Mahajan said, “Last month, we voted to formalize the 11:00 pm closing hour Sunday through Thursday. We’ve drawn our line. I suggest we all vote for that.”
Jane Mead initially made the first motion to support the application with conditions of an 11:00 pm closing Sunday-Thursday, midnight on Friday/Saturday, no bar, and alcohol must be served with food. Phil Orlandella made a point of order that the vote should be on the application presented. Mary McGee questioned the point of order from a non-member. Jane withdrew her motion and the vote ballots in progress were discarded at the request of the NEWRA executives.
Next, Victor Brogna moved to support or oppose the application as presented (midnight closing, 7 days). Sanjoy Mahajan amended the motion to add conditions (11pm weekday, no bar, served w/food). Brogna said that, “whether the applicant accepts the motion is not relevant.”
Two ballots were then collected. The first resulted in an 18-8 in support of the amendment and the second was 18-6 in support of the application, as amended. (Ed: That is my understanding of what the votes represented, but there was significant confusion at this point of the meeting.)
President Mark Paul announced that NEWRA supports the application, subject to an 11:00 pm closing Sunday through Thursday, midnight on Fridays & Saturdays. In addition, NEWRA conditions its support on “no bar” and serving alcohol only with food.
Background: Vincent Ferrara has applied to the Licensing Board for a new C.V. 7-day Malt and Wine license for a proposed new restaurant on the premises (formerly Paesano’s). Planned service includes breakfast and dinner, with no bar. The applicant has revised the application to a midnight closing hour, 7 days. There are currently 90 alcohol pouring licenses in the neighborhood, by NEWRA’s count. NEWRA’s Alcohol Licensing Policy includes a cap of 91 pouring licenses.
The location was previously occupied by Paesan’s, La Brace and D’Amore’s. Ferrara’s family was previously involved with La Brace. The old license at the location had a 2:00 am closing hour but a default resulted in a bank auction transferring that license to the Upper Crust on Boylston Street.