Food & Drink

Neighborhood Council Unanimously Supports 1:00 am Closing Hour Extension for “Vinoteca di Monica”

Jorge Mendoza (right), owner of Vinoteca di Monica on Richmond Street, presents to NEWNC with Attorney William Ferrullo.
Jorge Mendoza (right), owner of Vinoteca di Monica on Richmond Street, presents to NEWNC with Attorney William Ferrullo.

In a unanimous vote of 9-0, the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council supported Jorge Mendoza’s application to extend the closing hours for Vinoteca di Monica to 1:00 a.m., 7 days per week. The restaurant is located at 143-145 Richmond Street and currently has an all-alcohol license with an 11:00 p.m. closing hour Monday – Thursday and a 12:00 a.m. closing hour Friday – Sunday.

Representing Mr. Mendoza, Attorney William Ferrullo said that the Mendoza family has three businesses in the North End, employing 55 people. Vinoteca di Monica seats 98 people, including 9 at a bar and 30 on hi-top tables. Mr. Mendoza is well-known in the community and recently sponsored a charity event for the Eliot School Foundation. He has been operating on Richmond Street for 12 years.

“I have to turn away customers (because of the current hours),” said Mr. Mendoza. “People are working and eating later, including many coming after sporting events from the Garden. I am trying to meet the needs of my clientele. I am not looking for a bar scene. The license requires that food be served with alcohol in the restaurant.”

Mr. Mendoza described his history as a resident since the 1980s. “The North End accepted me and my family. I am a local kid who made good. I was 26 years old when we opened the first Monica’s. My brothers and I started with sandwiches, then dinner and we kept expanding. My children go to school here now. We are married to this community.”

Councilpersons Anne Devlin Tagliaferro and Mario Alfano asked if Mr. Mendoza would accept 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday while closing at 12:00 a.m. during the week. The applicant said he did not like mixed hours because his customers found it confusing. Mario Alfano said, “I think you’ve been very convincing, but this will be the last time that I vote this way.”

Bart Higgins, a Charter Street resident since 1996, said, “I was very fond of your mother. Your family roots are not the issue. We see changing demographics along certain vectors where residents are moving and selling out to absentee landlords. This summer we had 16 noise complaints in my building. A few years ago we had only one or so. The problem is that groups of friends come out of the restaurants and make noise.”

Stephanie Hogue, President of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA), quoted Police Captain O’Rourke from this week’s public safety meeting, “If you allow one, the flood-gates will open.” She noted that 7 of the last 9 recent noise complaints were regarding young professionals, not students. “People that are inebriated are being assaulted by downtown gangs.”

Councilman Ryan Kenny said, “Jorge, you are a good model for this neighborhood and because of that, I don’t have an issue with you applying for an extension. However, I see a conflict with you being here at the meeting and as a presenter.” (Jorge Mendoza, the applicant, is also a member of the 11 person neighborhood council.) “I expressed my concern at the executive meeting and was told there is no conflict,” Kenny continued. “Regarding the noise issues, Jorge’s place won’t be the problem.”

Attorney Ferrullo responded, “The by-laws say that a council member has to recuse himself for the entire meeting which is more than most by-laws require. When I chaired this board years ago, I thought it was a mistake to have business owners constantly recusing themselves.”

“Regarding the generalization about later hours equaling problems, I have talked to the Captain (O’Rourke),” continued Ferrullo. “We have umpteen 2 a.m. licenses across Cross Street with people that come here afterward. Monica’s is not a nightclub or a bar. The hour of the night does not dictate the problem. Unless we are the moral police, we are not going to control that. Each establishment should be judged on its own merit.”

“On Prince Street, I hear the event people going to the Garden,” commented resident Sue Beneviste.  “Then I hear them again at 2:00 a.m. going the other way. They do come from the restaurants. They talk loud especially when they’ve had a few drinks. It is not what happens when they are inside, but when they leave. People don’t realize how much they are drinking. I have seen people coming from Prezza that could not even stand after dinner.”

Referring to a NEWNC Good Neighbor Agreement limiting licenses to 12:00 a.m., Ms. Beneviste turned to the council, “What are your considerations in voting for this now?”

NEWNC President Passacantilli responded, “Under Aaron (Michlewitz), I only remember voting on the number of licenses, not hours. The council has turned over. I consider them on a case-by-case basis.”

“Will you say ‘no’ to the next 20 restaurants that come through?” asked Ms. Beneviste.

“I look at Tresca’s, Monica’s and there are a few more,” answered Mr. Passacantilli. “They are not bar scenes. I wouldn’t consider Ralph at Umberto’s (which actually has a 1:00 a.m. license) or the 12-seat restaurants. They are not the same thing. I don’t think adding a few hours to Tresca’s or Monica’s makes a big difference. I am tired of people pointing the finger at the neighborhood council.”

At this point in the meeting, there was some shouting and yelling between audience members, the council and the applicant.

Mario Alfano said, “This is getting out of hand. We are looking at the licenses and don’t always agree with NEWRA’s policy.” (NEWRA has an 11:00 p.m. closing policy Monday -Thursday and 12:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday).

Referring to the audience opposition, Councilman Giancarlo Tiberi said, “I am 27 years old, the type of young professional that people stereotype. It is the restaurant that needs to manage their business and the same with property owners. Prince Street was loud 15 years ago. You are fighting the irrational and perhaps shouldn’t have moved to the city. You need to step outside your shoes and listen to yourselves. I think there are irrational parallels being brought up.”

With the Nazzaro Center about to close at 9:00 p.m., Councilwoman Marie Simboli made a motion to support the application for a 1:00 closing hour, 7 days per week. Anne Devlin Tagliaferro seconded the motion. In a hand vote of 9-0, the council supported the application.

Attorney Ferrullo said the Licensing Board is scheduled to hear this application on January 26, 2011 at City Hall.

11 Replies to “Neighborhood Council Unanimously Supports 1:00 am Closing Hour Extension for “Vinoteca di Monica”

  1. Just give them all 1AM or 2 AM licenses…when's the last time the NEWNC opposed a time extension? Sounds like Ferullo's batting average is 1.0000 w/ the Council. I would say their approval rate is around 90% for extending licenses…dog and pony show.

  2. If you feel so strongly about this, why not show up at a meeting and voice your opinion BEFORE a vote is taken? When was the last time NEWRA approved anything….why don't they just send a form letter to the ZBA and the Licensing board opposing everything?

  3. The real winner here is the attorney. Two groups makes for more billable hours and sounds like he knows how to play them off each other to get what he wants.

  4. I have been to meetings…last time I went, they voted on something in the back room…came back and announced the voting results only to figure out 5 minutes later they didn't count the 12 votes correctly and reversed their decision. They had to chase the business owner down the street to tell him he was actually approved for his issue…enough said.

  5. I was a long time member and former Vice President of the NEW Neighborhood Council and I have never heard of that group voting in a back room – Unless this policy has changed in the recent past – all votes are taken by hand in front of the public. I would like to know when this voting issue you reference took place?

    The Council may vote in favor of many license extensions, however if one does not like the outcome of these votes or what happens at these meetings one simply can vote against the present council members at the annual council elections held each May or RUN THEMSELVES! Council members actually put their name on the line every month and are VOTED on by their neighbors – actually hundreds of neighbors each year.

    The Residents Association of which I am also a former member, does not have open votes but actually closed secret ballots by a membership who must pay to join. Joyce S. is correct when she says that that group seems to have a uniform record of voting against most expansions and extension requests.

    There are many ways to get involved in this neighborhood, just choose which way you would like to do it. But please don't criticize those who actually decide to serve the neighborhood as members of these boards (especially those who put their name on the line and run in an open election) as participants in a "dog and pony show" its insulting to their time, dedication and advocacy on behalf of all of our fellow residents.

  6. NEWRA may seem obstructionist when it is faced with constantly expanding requests – of height, of size, of closing hours. I like that the group worked toward a policy then generally give support/denial based on those guidelines.

    Kudos to all who give their time on behalf of the neighborhood, and thank you. The fact remains, NEWNC is a lot more willing to play ball and allow expanded business hours, failing to stick to any consistent rules.

  7. I remember the incorrect vote count that Jimmy is referring to happened last year at NEWRA, not NEWNC, when they initially announced the wrong vote and later had to chase after Giovanni Grimaldi, operator of Sapori di Napoli. The revised vote was in the applicant's favor and at the time, it seemed like an innocent mistake.

    Jason is correct that the elected NEWNC council votes are by public hand count and NEWRA uses a secret ballot membership system. Both NEWNC and NEWRA have member-only executive meetings.

    As someone who has witnessed a lot of wacky motions, votes and re-votes in both groups, I think it is safe to say that it's not as easy as it looks. While the groups are on different paths, the people that volunteer their time as leaders deserve a bit of slack.

    Both groups have seen quite a bit of recent turnover in their executive ranks and that is an opportunity for anyone that wants to get involved. As Jason mentioned, the annual NEWNC election is coming up in May (get your nomination papers in April at the Nazzaro Center).

  8. To all except my former NEWNC council member Jason ( I too served 6 years and am a former VP): ABSOLUTELY NO VOTING GOES ON IN "THE BACK ROOM" Actually NEWNC members MUST vote in public even if it means voting against someone. Unlike NEWRA whose members vote by secret ballot ( which in my opinion is a cowardly thing to do. If you oppose something buck up and vote for it in public)
    FYI both NEWNC and NEWRA are ADVISORY ONLY. Both the eight ZBA and the Licensing Board have final say on any height issues (55 ft is the legal zoning height so unless someone is trying to go higher, people in the neighborhood can oppose it all they want and only a DIRECT abutter stands a chance of stopping it unless one pulls a NEWRA maneuver and files a lawsuit (as they did about Doc's Longwharf, which is NOT EVEN IN THE NORTH END according to Boston Zoning maps, but I digress).

    Jason is right…if you think you can do a better job, run for NEWNC in May or AT LEAST show up and vote. Most NEWRA members don't even bother to vote in the NEIGHBORHOOD election for NEWNC but then feel free to complain about how the council votes and even try to dictate HOW the council should vote. Sorry that just doesn't seem right.

  9. I stand corrected, it was the NEWRA vote I was referring to and it was exactly the scenario that Matt described. I later spoke to Mr. Grimaldi that night who was a bit flustered. My mistake (could it be there is one neighborhood council too many?)

    I appreciate the time people put in on these committees but, I ask again, what's the success rate of licenses being extended in front of either of these neighborhood groups? When has either group ever voted against an hour extension that stuck?

    Once you say yes to one, you cannot then discriminate when others come before the council if they have no pre-existing issues. The horse has left the barn on this subject. Everyone who asks for a 1 AM license is going to have to be approved if all conditions are met…and I don't think that's good for the North End.

    And this is my forum to take this up…unfortunately, my job precludes me from attending more than 1 or 2 meetings a year.

  10. @Jimmy

    NEWNC was formed by the Mayor of Boston back in the 1980's
    NEWRA was formed as a spite group in the mid 1990s. (over supporting a political candidate )
    NEWNC tried to merge with NEWRA when I was on NEWNC.
    NEWRA refused to compromise on the combined group being anything but NEWRA.
    NEWNC refused to be bullied by NEWRA into vanishing into oblivion.
    And the beat goes on.

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