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.