The Boston Licensing Board today held 14 hearings on requests from restaurants that want one of the five all-alcohol licenses that state legislature graced on the city that became available this month - and holds a similar number of hearings next week.
Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini said the board will defer any decisions on who gets the new licenses - which can be resold for six-figure amounts - until after all the hearings are done, so it can decide which five made the best "public need" cases.
In addition, the board held hearings today on four restricted licenses, which can only be used in certain neighborhoods and which have to be returned to the board if the restaurant closes or moves. Among the groups applying for these licenses, intended to help culinary entrepreneurs in traditionally under-served neighborhoods: Wahlburgers, which wants to open a burger place in the large new South Bay expansion.
Councilor Sal LaMattina, who supported every single proposal in his North End/Charlestown/East Boston district, said the hearings show why Boston officials have to try again to convince the legislature to let the city take full control of liquor licenses, because otherwise, you wind up with neighborhoods fighting against each other - or, in his case, even neighboring streets competing for the licenses.
Here are the applicants and their cases, arranged by neighborhood:
Unnamed restaurant, 94 Guest St. Part of the New Balance mega-project, this proposed restaurant by Beauport Hospitality of Gloucester is "an extremely important location in the city of Boston, especially in the Allston/Brighton neighborhood," given how important the New Balance project is, attorney Dennis Qulity argued. It meets "every aspect of public need one could imagine" as a lynchpin of the 15-acre New Balance project, which is completely revitalizing a formerly desolate industrial wasteland along the Worcester Line and the turnpike, he said. The local civic association strongly supports the proposal as well.
Sweet Rice, 187 Main St. This Thai restaurant has been open for about five months. Owner Pichai Chairatthanawanit says the public need is that "there are not a lot of restaurants in the Charlestown area and not a lot of full liquor licenses." Councilor Sal LaMattina rose to support that argument.
Kamaura, 150 State St. The burgeoning residential neighborhood needs a quality Japanese restaurant - and it would re-activate a long vacant builing - its attorney said.
Renegades Pub, 1004 Bennington St. Public need: Would re-activate a former pub space turned eyesore that has been vacant for years, LaMattina and the mayor's office say.
The Retreat, 303 Sumner St. Public need: Jeffreys Point needs an upscale neighborhood restaurant with "high quality food and drinks," not to mention a scratch kitchen. LaMattina supported the request.
Unnamed restaurant, 6 New St. See separate story.
Antico Forno, 93 Salem St. and Terramia Ristorante, 98 Salem St. Carla Gomes, who owns both restaurants, deserves at least one full license to regain dining and function business lost to waterfront resstaurants with full licenses, attorney Albert DeNapoli said. Also, Gomes - supported by a number of North End residents - supports diabetes and North End groups. And it's a bit unfair that Hanover Street has 15 full liquor licenses, but Salem Street has only two, he said. LaMattina called her "a great, great business woman in the North End."
Crudo, 78 Salem St. The public need is simple: Crudo is the North End's only Japanese restaurant and people come from around the world to eat there, attorney Daniel Toscano said. Narrowing down the Salem Street argument even more, he said there is not a single full-service liquor license on the restaurant's block. LaMattina said he has seen people walk out of Crudo when told they couldn't get a non-sugary drink - of the sort you'd want with Japanese food.
Carmelina's, 124 Salem St. Owner Damien DiPaola plans to move Carmelina's from Hanover to a larger space on Salem Street. LaMattina praised DiPaola for his public service - he is always helping to clean up the neighborhood and has even been known to get on the case of other restaurant owners who are not quite so fastidious.
Strega, 379 Hanover St. The first of Nick Varano's Strega restaurants, where the public need, supporters said, is due in part to Varano's well known generosity in the neighborhood.
Mida, 782 Tremont St. Although owner Douglass Williams could apply for one of the restricted neighborhood licenses, he went for a full license, which is actually an important reason to give him one, City Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury) says. Jackson noted that the whole reason behind the 75 total new licenses Boston got in 2014 was to spur restaurant development in underserved neighborhoods such as Roxbury. But none of the 10 unrestricted licenses doled out earlier this year went to Roxbury. And as cool as the limited licenses are, they have no inherent value, unlike the unrestricted ones, which immedidately become valuable assets. Such assets become one way the city can help alleviate the continuing huge differences between the assets held by white and black Boston residents, by "spreading the wealth around the city," he said. Douglass himself said distilled spirits would prove valuable to customers with various digestive ailments who might be attracted to his menu - which is Italian, but heavy on vegetables and meats, rather than sugars and wheat, a menu he said he drew up in part based on his own experience with Crohn's Disease.
South Boston waterfront
75 on Seaport Square, 60 Seaport Blvd. Thomas Kershaw's latest proposed 75 restaurant - he already has one on Beacon Hill and one on Liberty Wharf, would provide another option for the fast-growing, hard-charging seaport area.