Opponents cite parent-murdering brothers, Homer Simpson in opposition to Allston pizza restaurant

Residents who want a neighborhood place where they can go with kids for some food squared off with residents who not only don't want pizza but want Harvard to bring back the retail stores it drove out, at a Boston Licensing Board hearing on a proposed pizza restaurant at barren Barry's Corner.

The board votes tomorrow on whether to let Stone Hearth Pizza, which has outlets in Cambridge, Needham and Belmont, turn a vacant Citgo station owned by Harvard into a restaurant with a beer and wine license.

SearlesSearlesAmie Searles, who lives nearby, rose to support the proposed eatery, which would be open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and until 10 p.m. the rest of the week. She said she and her friends with kids would love to have a neighborhood place they could walk to after a trip to the library, rather than having to get in their cars to drive somewhere.

City Councilor Mark Ciommo noted he normally opposes new liquor licenses, but told the board that after visiting the Stone Hearth Pizza in Belmont, he decided it was worth his support as "a good use for that property." He said he was "really pleased" to walk into the Belmont restaurant and "see infants and toddlers with bottles of a different sort."

Lorraine Bossi of the Allston Brighton Improvement Association, who normally opposes new liquor licenses as well, said she also supported the proposal, after eating three times at Stone Hearth restaurants. "A woman alone doesn't feel ill at ease there," she said, adding she was speaking for herself, not the association. "I think this is a tremendous operation. I wish we had them in Brighton."

BerkeleyBerkeleyBut Paul Berkeley, president of the Allston Civic Association, which narrowly opposed the proposal, said Allston just has too many pizza places, with or without beer.

Berkeley said Harvard created a neighborhood mess by buying up so many buildings and driving out the tenants. Harvard pushing a pizza place, he said, was like the Menendez brothers pleading for mercy because they became orphans when they killed their parents.

And he said he objected to Harvard treating Allston like "a colony of Homer Simpsons" who just want to sit around eating pizza and drinking beer. Berkeley said Allston already has too many liquor licenses and too many pizza places and that he would oppose Stone Hearth even if they didn't want a beer and wine license. If Harvard is serious about improving the neighborhood, it should use some of its vacant land and buildings for retail outlets the neighborhood really needs, such as the old Kmart.

In response, Licensing Board member Suzanne Ianella noted that the North End, which is far smaller than Allston, has three times as many restaurants with liquor licenses as Allston.

Other residents opposed to the proposal raised the specter of Stone Hearth returning in a couple of years for a full liquor license - they pointed to Smoken Joe's in Brighton Center - of people dying at the hands of drunken patrons careening out of the parking lot.

Dennis Quilty, the restaurant's attorney, said that because of neighborhood concerns about the fate of the license, Stone Hearth Pizza decided to seek a "restrictive" malt and wine license, which means it can't sell it to somebody else should the business go under.

"This particular area is far away from the hustle and bustle, if you will, of Harvard Avenue and Brighton Avenue," he added.

The hearing grew testy when one opponent wondered whether Ciommo paid for his meal at the Belmont restaurant. Acting board Chairman Michael Connolly told him to back off. "That's as unethical a question as anyone could ask," he thundered.

Jonathan Schwartz, one of the small chain's principals, said the proof the chain would never seek to serve hard liquor comes in its current five-year operations, during which it has maintained beer and wine licenses only. He said the chain actually closed its Sudbury restaurant rather than seek the full liquor license he said it would have taken to keep it in business.

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Comments

The quacks at the ACA drive

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The quacks at the ACA drive me absolutely insane. You've never met a more cantankerous group of withered old Massholes. One of them opposed the new Tavern having a roof deck because it would cause murders. Seriously.

i heard one was wondering if

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i heard one was wondering if the alcohol was to be served in plastic cups because glasses can be thrown and kill people.

massholes....seriously?

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If you lived in this area for any length of time and saw how these kids get so drunk, you'd be against a rooftop patio too. Why does the Tavern in the Square need a rooftop? From what I can see they can't fill the inside yet. Kids are falling out of windows and off apartment building roofs and dying. Let's not add to it. There may not be another(yes another)murder but there could be another death.

I believe in prevention and

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I believe in prevention and all, but I think that denying the rooftop particularly for those reasons was not appropriate. As for filling the place, as I understand it, they are not open yet. I would think a railing around the edge, and refusing to serve overly inebriated customers (in accordance with the the law and all) would serve to prevent people from falling to their deaths. There are other bars with rooftops that manage to keep their customers from jumping over the edge.

As for living in the area, I have been in Allston for 15 years or so, and I have seen how drunk students can get, particularly at the house parties. I think that the recent deaths are serious and awful tragedies, but restricting the legitimate places to gather and party is not the solution.

logic?

I get the frustration with drunk, out of control people. I don't get how a rooftop patio adds or detracts to the problem in any way, unless there are residences within earshot.

However, even that can be handled. You place a time restriction on use of the patio. Have the patio close earlier than the rest of the place, possibly even earlier during the week than on weekends. I know places where this is done.

Furthermore, whether or not a place NEEDS something is not reason enough to deny it. It's a bizarre manner of thought. So-and-so doesn't need this, so let's not allow it at all. Who gets to make that determination..about what a person or business NEEDS? If they want it, and it can be done safely and without compromising the neighborhood, based on those merits alone they ought to have every right to it.

Srsly?

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Wow. Think about what you just said for one brief fraction of a second, okay?

If you were really an Allston Girl, you would know that "these kids get so drunk" at house parties, not at restaurants. Don't believe me? Look back at your own words here. These kids who are falling out of windows and apartment building roofs: are they falling out of restaurant windows? Are there restaurants on these apartment building roofs? No. These kids are--say it with me, everybody!--at house parties. They're not at restaurants.

Try again.

wow, Paul Berkeley sounds

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wow, Paul Berkeley sounds like an ass. Why not just go full Godwin and claim it's like the Nazi's pushing into Poland?

Let's pick this apart

1) What an arrogant prick Paul Berkeley is. "Boston has too many pizza places?" Ever heard of Adam Smith? Why do you think that you're better than the free market? Such hubris.

2) Mark Ciommo can do whatever he wants in BELMONT. He's a BOSTON city councilor. If somebody wants to give him a free pie over there, that's his business and has nothing to do with our city.

3) Love how one of the supporters said "a single woman would feel safe there." That really is the best endorsement a potential licensee could receive. This place will get its beer/wine license on that basis alone.

why shouldn't he visit the Belmont restaurant?

There aren't any Stone Hearth Pizza locations yet within the Boston city limits, so I'm glad that he went to Belmont to see an example of their restaurant. Belmont has historically been quite conservative about alcohol, so if they are considered a good citizen in Belmont, they'll be fine for Allston.

No, he can't

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A Massachusetts elected official cannot receive a "gift" of $50 or more without declaring it; that's the state's ethics laws. Doesn't matter what town they receive the gift in. What Councilor Ciommo does in Belmont is the public's business if he receives a gift of $50 or more.

That said, the question was idiotic. You don't accuse someone of unethical behavior without a single bit of evidence. I'm glad Connolly quashed the question.

A freebie in Belmont...

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A city counselor accepting a free meal from an applicant with business currently before the licensing board is an obvious conflict of interest, irrespective of whether the meal was in Boston, Belmont, or Botswana.

Just to be clear

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Nobody accused Mark Ciommo of accepting a free meal. The guy who brought it up was merely "wondering" if he did and backed down after Connolly yelled at him.

I haven't paid much attention to Ciommo (nothing against him, I just don't live in his district), but really, I find it nearly impossible to believe he could be bought off with a pizza and some beer. "Wondering" about it was kind of an assholish thing to bring up and did the guy's cause no good.

ACA needs a reality check

In the mid-nineties I witnessed meetings of the Allston Brighton Improvement Assoc(if I'm remember the name right), Allston Civic Association and so forth. I was one of the rare college and then recent college grads in the area actually getting in involved in the community.

What I saw, was a group of "old white folks," some of whom like to bring their knitting, say "No" to nearly every reasonable business idea. I guess they'd rather have shuttered storefronts than serve the majority of the population living there.

It was especially painful when immigrants trying to establish a business or increase hours sought approval, or approval for anything what-so-ever. They'd get raked over the coals pretty bad...even if they just wanted to deliver pizza.
Don't worry.. I'll get back on topic..

I understand the dynamics of students, families, immigrants and get-off-my-lawners in that area and the issues that arise. But what they seem to miss, is that without the nightlife associated with students, grad students and young professional transplants living there, without restaurants open in the later hours, without all the associated businesses remaining open past the 'witching hour', they'd likely face more crime and urban blight. The area's just too close to everything and densely developed to be a sleepy bedroom community, except for some pockets..

And a place like Stone Hearth is not just another pizza joint, and no one has a right to say an area has too many pizza joints, anyway, let the market decide that. These boards are on a power trip. An ignorant, out of touch power trip. I hope someone stops them. But it won't be me. I moved out.

BUT.. as a celiac who has to have gluten free pizza, Stone Hearth is one of the very few places I can go..the more of them, the better. I wonder why no one has played up that public benefit.

You lost me at knitting

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"some of whom like to bring their knitting"
What does that have to do with anything?
You invalidate your credibility with that statement.

That's ok

If you're that easily "Lost," I probably would have lost you elsewhere soon after. I have nothing against knitting, nor is it blatant ageism. I know young people who knit.

But, I found it interesting that this core group seemed of "one mind" on most everything, and that it was already made up before they got there, and so they otherwise occupied themselves while opposing views were aired.

You misunderstanding knitting

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I know many, many knitters. They knit while paying attention to another activity (like sitting in a meeting) -- not as a substitute for it.

Well, mostly. When a knitter realizes a mistake eight rows ago and starts undoing the past two hours' work, you hear, "oh shit, oh shit," and they are, at that moment, probably not paying attention to anything else.

I stand corrected on knitting

But I still can't believe, that of everything I said, people have honed in on the insignificant bit about knitting...talk about nit-picking.

I'll conclude that it must be because no other fault was found. ;)

So close!

You missed a golden opportunity to write "... knit-picking".

(and yeah, I'm a bit surprised this devolved into a knitting discussion... then again, I also know many defensive knitters :))

Stone Hearth Pizza

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I've been casually following this sulfurous debate over the past month or so, and have concluded that the people who are in opposition to Stone Hearth must be living in an alternate universe, which features it's own set of realities.

The fact is, this country is in the midst of the most severe recession since the great depression. We need to encourage entrepreneurs at all levels to invest in businesses that will foster job growth and tax revenues. This argument alone should trump all others.

Furthermore, those in opposition to this establishment are offering some of the most absurd reasons I've ever heard in my life. I'm waiting for the ACA folks to say that they're worried that laser armed alien spaceships will become frequent patrons at Stone Hearth. Really. I'm waiting to hear that next.

To wit, Paul Berkeley wants Kmart back again (why?). Kmart went out of business at Brighton Mills because they were losing money, and the chain (along with their products) sucked. This is the same fellow who championed the development of the old Casey and Hayes warehouse on Lincoln street into either a datacenter or a biotech complex. That building was subsequently morphed into becoming a derelict, monolithic structure that resembles a WWII Nazi ministry. Oh, and by the way, that building HAS BEEN VACANT FOR OVER A DECADE!!! Paul Berkeley and the ACA do not have a good track record, and should be cast into irrelevance in my opinion.

For full disclosure, I locked horns with Paul Berkeley and his organization when they were proposing to erect a barrier wall between the Mass pike and the northern end of Lincoln street. The wall would have been a hideous sight on it's own merits, never mind the fact that it would have become a masturbatory canvass for grafitti artists. I instead argued for leaving the current chain link fence in place, in addition to planting more trees to help reduce noise. Thankfully my approach (sans new trees) won out in the end. The ACA people are full of bad ideas, and need constant supervision, if not outright opposition.

KMart was forced out by Harvard

>> Kmart went out of business at Brighton Mills because they were losing money

That's incorrect. The real story is that Harvard wanted KMart gone and Brighton Mills emptied. This gave the community several years of a vacant shopping mall, but it also made it the location for new Charlesview apartments which would let Harvard acquire the current Charlesview site next to its Business School.

Harvard vs. Kmart - University's tactics turn more hardball as it seeks to evict Brighton store

Kmart

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Harry-
You're right. I was thinking of Caldors (previous tenant) that went out of business because they were losing money.

Clearly Paul Berkeley has a

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Clearly Paul Berkeley has a better idea of what people want than the people or the business.

If there is no demand for pizza, they will go out of business after paying a years worth of taxes. What is the problem?

ACA meeting TONIGHT at Honan Library at 6pm

Thanks so much for covering the hearing, Adam... really glad you were there. You were a lot more fair in your coverage than I would have been, though the facts (and the quotes) pretty much speak for themselves.

To any reading this who still live in Allston - and care about its future - PLEASE join us at the next meeting of the Allston Civic Assocation, which is TONIGHT at the Honan Library at 6pm. From what I've been told, all you have to do is attend and sign in at 3 consecutive meetings to get voting power. I think it's time for a little shake up in the ranks.

I've spoken to more than a few people who have gone to some of these meetings and been so depressed and frustrated by the more vocal association members that they've never returned. Guess I'll find out tonight how much I can take.

So, I went

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And actually, I was surprised. Bear with me while I say a couple of relatively nice things about Paul Berkeley, even though I still think his association is doing more harm than good. First off, the guy runs a fair meeting. He lets people speak even when what they're saying conflicts with his own positions, and he doesn't let shouting matches get started: he did a particularly good job with the latter on the last order of business of the night, a fight between the landlord of the garage/cab dispatch center at Western and Waverly and his immediate neighbors, which at times threatened to get a little too heated.

That said, the meeting started with Superintendent Evans doing his usual song and dance about how all of Allston's problems are due to those mean ol' businesses that want to stay open until 2 a.m., and how college students would just stay at home and drink chamomile tea while reading Proust if there wasn't anywhere to get a slice of pizza at 2 a.m. He even turned my question about out-of-control house parties into a variation on that topic, saying that the real problem with the house parties was that people leave them to go get pizza at 2 a.m., which is just total bullshit. I was a drunk college student. I didn't leave to get pizza at 2 a.m., I stood in the kitchen and ate Capn Crunch out of the box!

Later, Berkeley went on to complain that the ACA's position on Stone Hearth Pizza had been misrepresented, that their complaint wasn't so much against this business, but that they wanted to see a retail establishment go into that space instead of another restaurant. Which, if that's the problem, then that's a problem they've brought upon themselves, because they never publicly said anything to that effect.

The thing is, if I own, say, a dry cleaner, and I'm thinking about opening a place in Allston, if I see a group like the ACA making such a stupid, self-defeating argument against a damn pizza place...well, guess what, I ain't opening my dry cleaners in Allston, because it looks like it's not worth the tsuris.

The ACA has, rightly or wrongly--mostly rightly--gained a reputation as knee-jerk obstructionists. And as long as that reputation stands, it does our neighborhood no good.

License approved!!

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The Stone Hearth license was approved!! Thanks to everyone who emailed the licensing board, mayor's office, and city councilman to help make this happen. No more abandoned CITGO station--woo hoo!!

Amie

Oh good

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Now perhaps some well-deserved sanity will prevail, and the foolish mindset that empty storefronts are better than restaurants will die.

Oh good

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Now perhaps some well-deserved sanity will prevail, and the foolish mindset that empty storefronts are better than restaurants will die.

Is the ACA worse than any

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Is the ACA worse than any other neighborhood organization? I'm afraid to get involved with stuff like this in my neighborhood, because I fear the organization's NIMBYism would drive me crazy.

Not all the same

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From my limited observations of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (i.e., watching their rep at licensing board hearings), they seem a lot calmer and less willing to let events that happened in the 1960s dictate their positions today.

Just so

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That's the thing that kept leaping out at me throughout this whole charade: there's a lotta people still fighting old battles here, and they seem not to notice that the rest of us have moved on to new problems.

My old neighbors weren't

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My old neighbors weren't drunks or college students. But they did like to grill, smoke cigarettes, and talk loud until all hours of the morning.

I actually like pizza and go to several different places in Brighton for my fix, the best being at the end of my street.

I often wonder what right the ACA has to tell someone what to do (or usually not do) with their private property?

Can you grill Cap'n Crunch?

Stone Hearth Pizza - wondering about comment about Smoken Joe's

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just wondering what exactly the author was alluding to with the reference to Smoken Joe's... I live almost exactly between the two restaurant sites and they are VERY different neighborhoods and very different establishments... can someone fill me in on the reference to killing people in parking lots? did I miss the coverage about some horrible tragic event in Brighton Center involving liquor, drivers, and death?

Two separate thoughts

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1) Smoken' Joe's originally got just a malt and wine license, swore that was all it needed, then came back a couple years later for a full liquor license.

2) Murdering drunks was a hypothetical: Somebody could get drunk at Stone Hearth Pizza, drive onto Western Ave. and kill somebody.