Food & Drink

Neighborhood Council Votes to Oppose a New Alcohol License at Cafe Lil Italy, 178 Salem Street

Video: View the presentation, discussion and vote at the meeting by clicking on the play button above.

The North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) voted 6-1 to oppose a new alcohol license application by Carla Gomes for Caffe Lil Italy at 178 Salem Street (corner of Hull St., across from the Old North Church). The vote was held at the April 11, 2011 meeting of the Neighborhood Council at the Nazzaro Center. Carla Gomes is also a long-time resident and owner of two North End restaurants, Terramia and Antico Forno.

Attorney Daniel Toscano presented the application for the small cafe, with 19 seats and 600 square feet in close proximity to the Old North Church. The applicant said the license would be for beer, wine and cordials to be served with the cafe’s sandwich, snack and dessert selections. There is no kitchen or bar in the facility.

Council members and residents at the meeting were very complementary of Ms. Gomes’ business operations and some spoke in favor of the new 7-day C.V. malt and wine license. Highlighted positives included the reputation of Ms. Gomes and the small, neighborhood-like feel of the cafe.

Much of the discussion involved concerns raised by abutters and councilors, including:

  • Perceived trading of licenses – This application is for a new license and follows the August 2010 sale of an alcohol license at the same location by the applicant’s brother and previous owner, Stephen Agrippino to Cafe Nuovo, 76 Salem St. New licenses from are relatively inexpensive (~$1,500) compared to purchasing an existing license for transfer that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The applicant purchased the cafe from her brother in November 2010 and said that it did not make financial sense to buy an existing license for Caffe Lil Italy.
  • Potential for late-night activity/noise at the location which had been a problem in the past. The license is for an 11:00 p.m. closing time, although the applicant said she would likely close earlier. One councilor said that residents have complained about adding new licenses to the neighborhood.
  • Past availability of bathrooms – The applicant said the bathrooms will be open for patrons.

Council members attending the meeting included President Stephen Passacantilli, David Marx, Ryan Kenny, Luciana Burdi, Jorge Mendoza, Anne Devlin Tagliaferro, Donna Freni and Jon Sproul.  All councilors voted to oppose the license application except Luciana Burdi for a final tally of 6-1. (The NEWNC President only votes to break a tie.) More information about NEWNC can be found at

6 Replies to “Neighborhood Council Votes to Oppose a New Alcohol License at Cafe Lil Italy, 178 Salem Street

  1. So this council opposes this license which is at a place that rarely stays open after 6PM but OK's the extension of a license until 2AM to The Living Room? Makes no sense.

  2. In listening to Mr. Toscano discuss wanting the BW&C license that La Familia Giorgio agreed to give up in order to get an all alcohol license , I was under the impression (delusion) that part of the reason Al got support was because he agreed the BW&C would NOT come back to the neighborhood. So why does Daniel think an exception should be made in this case.

  3. @ Jimmy. You are talking about apples and oranges. The support for the Living Room 2AM license extension was a bad vote to be sure. But the issue with the cafe lil italy license is 1) that it is a NEW license to replace the license that the previous owners sold to Cafe Nuovo and 2) is yet another example of a trend that has been developing in the North End for a restaurant owner to obtain a new license then sell that license at a profit and for the new owner to want a new license that only costs $2000 vs the $20,000 + needed to purchase an existing B&W license.
    This has nothing to do with the closing hours or Carla Gomes( Who is a reputable business owner and happens to be one of the most generous supporters of the North End ) . People have had enough of these types of maneuvers. Unfortunately Carla's application had reallly bad timing and she was the one who applied when the council decided to draw a line in the sand. It will be interesting to see how NEWRA votes on this application.

  4. Regardless of the comment above there is another license to be obtained in the neighborhood. Therefore, that license has to be granted to a business in the neighborhood so why not to a reputable business person who has been in business for over 18 years and never closes my restaurants later than 10:30 PM when I have had a 1 PM license since 1996. Furthermore, I was born and raised here in the North End and also raised my children here which is another reason the board should know that I am vested in the North End as a resident and a business person. Also, to deny someone a license due to bad timing is a poor excuse. I also do not understand why it should matter to the board if a license cost 2500 from the city or 45,000 privately? It does not make sense to me why they would care about the cost which is not relevant to the issue. How many people on this board own restaurants or cafes and understand the cost of opening a restaurant or cafe? Maybe just one! When the rest of the board members decide to open a restaurant only then will they discover what it costs to open and maintain a restaurant in the neighborhood. Also, why should anyone care if my brother Stephen purchased the previous owner Tom's license from the city or from Tom personally? There was already an existing license at the cafe before Stephen purchased it. Furthermore, Stephen sold the license to a restaurant that already had an existing license for many years under D'Amore's restaurant. So neither of these licenses went to an address that never had a beer and wine license! Why is it a concern to anyone if Stephen made a profit? It is due to the neighborhood boards capping the number of licenses which leads to an increase in cost in the transfer of a license. In response to the article, if anyone knows me they also know that I would never allow late night activity outside the cafe. I believe this noise from the cafe was about 10 years ago when it was owned by previous owners other than myself or my brother Stephen. In regards to the bathrooms, I do not believe it is my responsibility to supply bathroom availability to every tourist who visits the neighborhood. The cafe should not be turned into a public restroom! This is the city's responsibility not mine as the owner of the cafe. The bathrooms are available to patrons who come to the cafe to have something to eat or drink. What I discovered at that meeting was the board did not take into account the reputation of the person in front of them applying for the license but rather that I was judged on the reputation of previous owners.

  5. Carla Gomes has been more than generous to the North End people in respect that she closes her establishes long before all the vampires come out to destroy the quality of life in the neighborhood!!!! Also @ Joyce if you had any idea how to run a business you would probably refrain from negative comments!! the license has to go somewhere so LETS GIVE IT TO A STRANGER instead!!!

  6. @Nicolo. I actually was complimentary to Carla if you had bothered to read what I said. I think the license Carla is referring to is the one La Famiglia is turning back into the city. Part of the agreement between Al and NEWNC was that if he got the all alcohol license, it would not come back to the neighborhood. Now Carla wants to bring back into the North End. Nobody is against Carla. It is not personal. It is a general issue with the number of alcohol pouring licenses and the perception that new licenses are being obtained for short money and then sold off at a significant profit , a situation that is not really fair to business owners who have bought licenses at the market rate. As far as the license application goes…ultimately it is up to the Boston Licensing Board and the State Board to decide if a new license will be issued.

    BTW….your comment about if I knew how to run a business I wouldn't make negative remarks is misguided AND irrelevant. What business do or have you run? My remarks were about the license and what appears to be the reason the council voted against it. Your remarks are a personal attack on me because you disagree with what I said.

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