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Developers plead for three more months to find a restaurant for their downtown highrise

The Boston Licensing Board decides Thursday whether to let the owners of 45 Province St. continue to hold onto a liquor license that has gone unused since they acquired it in 2008.

Diane Modica, attorney for the owners of the luxury building, said the owners are finally getting some serious nibbles on the vacant three-story restaurant space - including a proposal by restaurateur Mark Berkowitz for a European-style bistro and cafe. She said that unlike some people who simply and illegally sit on valuable and scarce Boston liquor licenses - 45 Province got smacked by the recession - one deal fell through when the prospective tenant lost its financing.

And the declining appeal of Downtown Crossing hasn't helped, 45 Province managing partner David Epstein said. "The fact that we're a block from the Filene's hole has not helped us at all," he said. Modica and Epstein, however, said the owners remain committed to improving the area and that the new Downtown Crossing business improvement district will soon mean major improvements even if the hole remains.

However, with no restaurant contract actually in hand, board Chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer asked why the board should continue to give 45 Province more time when there are other potential restaurants in the area and in the city that could immediately put that liquor license to good use.

Modica and Epstein said 45 Province has aggressively pushed the space - to the point where Epstein is willing to forego maximizing profits just to get a restaurant in the space as promised to buyers of condos in the building. Modica said 45 Province managers and brokers are regulars at restaurant conferences and showcases and added, "they're using the latest media technology to market this premise."

Also Thursday, the board will decide whether to let the owners of Nonna's Market, a corner store in the North End, hold onto its beer and wine license as they try to find an investor to help them move the store to a new location. The market has been closed since the beginning of February.

In both cases, the board could grant 90-day extensions to let the owners find a way to actually use the licenses or revoke them.



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how about no arbitrary limit! let anyone who wants one apply and go before the board and residents.

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Absolutely! This arbitrary cap is just a recipe for corruption. Anyone should be able to get a license if there is no specific reason to deny it.

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