THURSDAY UPDATE: The Licensing Board granted the request for a beer and wine license.
The Boston Licensing Board could vote Thursday whether to let a shuttered Vietnamese market on Dorchester Avenue be turned into an upscale shop selling everything a young professional could need for a dinner party - from wine and gourmet cheeses to self-service olive oil and home-made peanut butter.
At a hearing today, young professionals - and some older residents - supported Mateo Van's proposed Savin Hill Enterprise at 1047-1051 Dot. Ave. saying they are tired of having to drive to distant towns to get the sorts of supplies they need and that Savin Hill has changed enough to be able to support this sort of store.
Opponents, including the pastor of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church next door and a competing liquor store, however, said the area already has enough liquor stores and that adding one more would only turn the area into even more of a haven for drunks and prostitutes than it already is.
Van had originally sought a license to open a full-service liquor store, but his attorney, Carolyn Conway, said he reconsidered after strong opposition last year and changed the focus of the proposal to serve the burgeoning party and dinner needs of the young-professional and empty-nester market on "the west side of Dorchester Avenue." Conway said many of these new residents are "foodies who stay at home."
"There really is no market that service this niche," she said. Board Chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer suggested she was pouring it on a bit thick by declaring that people on the west side of Dot. Ave. wouldn't cross over to the east side to buy cheesy comestibles.
Robert Fuller, a Pearl Street resident and doctor in training at Boston Medical Center, said Van has already made the neighborhood better just by cleaning up the old market, which he said residents would cross the street to avoid just because of the rats. Fuller said he now has to drive to Somerville or even Hingham when he wants to stock up for a party and that he would love a shop he could walk to.
William Christopher, an architect and 40-year resident of the neighborhood, said the proposed shop would fit in nicely with "long-range plans of what Dorchester Avenue could become."
But Cornel Miller, pastor of the Waymark Seventh-Day Adventist Church at 1048 Dorchester Avenue, said there are already six liquor licenses for stores and restaurants within a three or four-block radius of the proposed store.
"That's a lot of liquor," he said. He tut-tutted people saying they have to drive far to get liquor because "we have to drive to get groceries in that community; to get in your car to get liquor is not a big deal."
He said problems with drunks and prostitutes are already so bad that the church recently chopped down trees out front to try to drive out the "drunks sleeping on the steps" of the church, and warned the problem would only get worse with even easier access to wine and beer, no matter how high end. He cited a state law that lets licensing boards ban liquor establishments within 500 feet of a church or school.
"It's just not kosher to have something that close to our establishment," he said. Seventh-Day Adventists do not believe in consuming alcohol.
Another opponent noted the presence of a sober house for women near the proposed location.
Mirosleidy Tejada, owner of Avenue Liquor, said there is no public need for the new shop because her store is already open. She said people who support the proposal "are obviously not drinkers, in my opinion," because if they were, they would already have visited her store and realized that not only does she already sell 100 craft beers, she has a signup sheet on which customers can suggest even more craft beers.