The Boston Licensing Board today chose an existing Mission Hill Thai/sushi restaurant for the one liquor license it had over a proposed shaken-seafood place in Roslindale.
Laughing Monk Cafe, 737 Huntington Ave., had a city councilor, a priest from Mission Church, rival restaurant owners and the local Main Street program backing its application at a hearing yesterday, along with several Mission Hill residents. All said owner Dome Nakapakorn had proven himself a valuable member of the community in the eight month's he's been open and that he needed the license to survive and the neighborhood needed the license because of the rapid growth of residential and research and office space around it.
In contrast, Shaking Seafood, 19 Poplar St., which hopes to open in January, had only its attorney's statement that it needed a liquor license because the spicy food it would serve needs something hearty with which to wash it down and because Roslindale residents had proven themselves "respectful towards alcoholic beverages and consumption."
The "neighborhood" all-alcohol license became available after chef Chris Douglass cancelled plans for a restaurant in the former Roslindale Square substation and turned in the license he'd been awarded last year.
These restricted licenses - holders cannot resell them - are supposed to be reused in the neighborhoods where they were granted, but only if the holders actually use them. Since Douglass never opened the doors of his restaurant, the board could award the license to anybody in Dorchester, Mattapan or Roxbury or in any of Boston's "main street" districts, including the Mission Hill district Laughing Monk is in. The board long ago doled out the remaining 74 licenses the state legislature deigned to grant Boston several years ago, largely to try to encourage new restaurants in the city's outer neighborhoods.
Among those who attended the Laughing Monk hearing was City Councilor Josh Zakim, making just his second appearance before the board in his four years in office. Normally, city councilors who want to support a restaurant dispatch an aide.
Also speaking in support of the 34-seat restaurant was Father Philip Dabney of Mission Church, who said he and other priests at the church love the restaurant's food. Dabney was joined in testimony by his brother, in from Seattle, who said that as a Seattle resident, he knows good Thai food and that Laughing Monk is "one of the best restaurants I've ever been to."
Owners of two nearby restaurants also supported the bid, saying Nakapakorn has given generously of his time and food for local events.
Richard Rouse, executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets, said Mission Hill restaurants are in a precarious position, because the demand for ground-floor space is so high these days that they have trouble making ends meet. But without restaurants like the Laughing Monk, he said, Mission Hill would have trouble staying the sort of residential neighborhood it is now.
In contrast, nobody from Rouse's counterpart group in Roslindale attended the Shaking Seafood hearing; nor did anybody from City Councilor Tim McCarthy's office.
The mayor's office supported both proposals.