Boston Licensing Director Patricia Malone says she faces a thorny question: Whether to let an upscale waterfront steakhouse turn the sound on on televisions mounted on its outdoor patio.
Smith and Wollensky, on Congress Street on Fort Point Channel, has probationary permission to turn TVs on the patio on - but only with the sound off. Now it wants to be able to turn the sound on, for both select TV shows and for background music.
At a hearing this morning, restaurant attorney Dennis Quilty said the patio is essentially enclosed by the restaurant, that the sound would not affect anybody nearby and that the restaurant's clientele is just more sedate than at your basic Fenway Park area sports bar. He said restaurant goers the other day would have appreciated being able to hear reports of the president's surprise visit to Afghanistan - and gave the Kentucky Derby as an example of an event for which the eatery's genteel clientele would be given the chance to listen in.
But Malone, who said she has long been vexed by the issue of speakers on outdoor patios, said she has to consider the entire city when making decisions and that she's worried that if she allows sound at the Atlantic Wharf restaurant, she'd be pressured to allow speakers at other establishments that might not have the same gentle touch as Smith and Wollensky.
Malone also expressed concern that the request before her called for the outdoor speakers to run as late as 2 a.m. Restaurant officials, however, said they rarely stay open that late and that they'd be willing to consider a much earlier shut-off time for outdoor speakers, such as 10 p.m.
Malone took no action pending a formal request from the restaurant for earlier speaker hours.