Troubled downtown club tries to briefly rise from the dead, but residents, businesses and police want to stuff it back in grave
The owners of Felt, closed for the past 18 months due to licensing, tax and business issues, today asked the Boston Licensing Board to reinstate its liquor license.
Attorney Mark Zuroff, who represents the last known group of owners, said the sole reason would be so that they could sell the license to a new operator who wants to convert the Washington Street space into a fancy supper club called the Adams House - an homage to a restaurant that once operated there. "None of the prior management or ownership will be involved," he pledged. "We're not trying to resurrect the current operation."
Residents, neighboring businesses, Suffolk University and Boston Police, however, were having none of it, saying the neighborhood is changing, that they have enjoyed 18 months of violence- and noise-free weekend nights, rather than being awakened at 2 a.m. by hundreds of people exiting the club and that they did not buy Zuroff's promises of a troublefree new restaurant.
Capt. Thomas Lee of District A-1 asked the board not to renew the Felt license because of the near perpetual crime problems related to it. In the two years before it closed, he said, there were 20 assaults in the club - four of them stabbings, as well as two sexual assaults, seven larcenies, four counts of drunken patrons being served more liquor and one gun call.
"This was the worst nightclub on District 1," he said. "It had a significant impact on the neighborhood."
Henry Yee of the Chinatown Residents Association said residents of a nearby senior project deserve a good quality of life. Leonard Phillips of Bay Village said he was tired of police resources that would normally go to keeping his neighborhood safe being repeatedly summoned to deal with problems at or outside Felt.
The Midtown Park Plaza Neighborhood Association also opposed letting Felt regain its license, no matter how temporarily.
State imposed limits on the number of all-alcohol licenses in Boston mean the liquor license is the dead club's main asset - and a draw for the prospective new owner. In addition to the Boston board, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission would also have to approve the renewal.
That the board held the hearing at all was yet the latest example of problems related to the old club. License renewal is normally automatic, but after the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission suspended the license because the new ownership group - which included some of the old owners - never notified it of the change, as required by law. The new owners thought they didn't have to renew the club's license and it expired, Zuroff said.
One nearby resident noted the recent influx of residents into Downtown Crossing: "What was once appropriate is no longer appropriate."
Suffolk University, which has invested heavily in dorm and theater space on Washington Street, the Downtown Business Improvement District, Millennium Place and Millennium Partners all opposed renewing the club's license. Millennium Partners is nearing completion of a luxury residential tower on what was once a Washington Street parking lot across from Felt - and a scene of one of the early morning melees that had Felt managers appearing before the licensing board.
Mimi Beldekas, whose family has owned the building for decades, acknowledged the complaints and said she agreed with them. "I feel like I've been basically victimized by the previous owners," she said, adding she has not received a cent in rent since the club shut.
The board decides Thursday whether to renew the license or take it back, which would let it offer it to somebody else in the city.