Not long after the Johnson wing of the BPL's main library went up, the story goes, an old lady became forever trapped in the stairs that were the only way to get between the new and old wings. The new renovations have finally fixed that.
Christopher Coombs and Brian Piccini hope to replicate the success of their Boston Chops steakhouse in the South End in the large space in Downtown Crossing where Mantra used to be.
At a Boston Licensing Board hearing this morning, the pair, who also own dbar in Dorchester and Deuxave in the Back Bay, said they're looking at putting upwards of $1 million into transforming the troubled old space on Temple Place into a large neighborhood steakhouse for the thousands of people who now live downtown.
The two are seeking one of the five unrestricted liquor licenses the board has to dole out. If they don't get one, they might have to spend more than $300,000 on the open market for one.
Their attorney, Joseph Hanley, said the public need for them to get a license is partly because the burgeoning neighborhood needs a good restaurant. But he continued that the two specialize in taking run-down spaces in forlorn corners and turning them into successful neighborhood-transforming restaurants.
Residents from Dorchester, the South End and the Back Bay all attended the hearing to testify to the changes that had happened with their other restaurants. Back Bay residents and merchants in particular said the pair basically opened up a once ignored stretch to other new restaurants and businesses.
Hanley said that aside from the problems Mantra caused, the space itself is not really attractive to most restaurant operators, because it's so large and mainly bereft of windows. Coombs said the only things that would really work in the space would be another club - which he said nobody in the neighborhood would support - or a large steakhouse.
Without naming specific companies that have recently moved into Boston, their attorney, Joseph Hanley added another reason the board should favor his clients: They're making investments in the city all by themselves. "They're not getting tax breaks, they're not a national company."
The board will not act on any license requests until at least next week, after it holds another round of hearings.
The Boston Licensing Board could decide next week whether to grant a Roxbury-specific liquor license to the impending Residence Inn by Marriott South End Boston - and to new hotels downtown and in the actual South End.
The new six-story, 135-room Marriott will be at Washington Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard; ground could be broken by year's end, with construction expected to take a year.
Among those who spoke in favor of it getting a full liquor license at a board hearing today was City Councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury), who called it a "transformative project" for the Dudley Square area. He noted hotel operators have agreed to set minimum hourly wages at $18 and to spend $400,000 on a training program "for a neighborhood that can sorely use it."
The hotel's attorney, Karen Simao, added that, in general, Boston has a desperate need for new hotel rooms.
If granted, the hotel would get a Roxbury-specific license that it would have to return to the city should it go out of business. The board has a total of 20 of these licenses to dole out in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and various "Main Street" districts.
In contrast, a proposed hotel on Beverly Street, near North Station, is seeking one of five "unrestricted" licenses, which become assets that can be borrowed against or sold, to service a proposed 241-seat bistro-style restaurant, meeting rooms and guests.
Simao said the public need for the hotel is partly because of Boston's shortage of hotel space - especially near North Station. Simao said Boston is now losing visitors to hotels in Cambridge and Somerville because people coming here for events at the Garden can't find a nearby place to stay.
But her partner, Stephen Miller, added another public need: Developer Related Beal will use profits from the hotel to support the adjoining $250-million affordable-housing building now under construction. In stark contrast to all the other development around North Station, that 239-unit project will be entirely aimed at people who are not wealthy.
The board will have to decide whether the third hotel, a 200-room AC Hotel by Marriott on Albany Street near the Ink Block, will need an unrestricted license or whether it can get a neighborhood-specific one because of its proximity to the Washington Gateway Main Streets area.
As with the other two hotels, Simao, said the public need for a liquor license is partly because "we desperately need more hotels and hotel rooms" in Boston. But also, that section of the South End is particularly bereft of hotel rooms, she said.
Boston Police report taking a different tack to busting up weekend drag racing in Newmarket Square: Undercover officers who take down license-plate information with which to write out tickets, summonses and RMV requests to immediately revoke driver's licenses.
Police say that past efforts, which involved a wedge of uniformed officers descending on the area, mainly succeeded in scattering participants who were able to flee before police could stop them.
But the undercover operation this past Friday resulted in 75 citations, 35 applications for criminal charges and several requests to the Registry to immediately revoke people's licenses as threats to public safety.
Police say the weekend races have become so popular they're attracting people from across eastern Massachusetts - not to mention a hot-dog vendor.
Police say that in addition to Boston residents, the operation netted the names of people from Lowell, Everett, Lynn and various North Shore towns.