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Roslindale Square beer garden wins permanent approval

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved changing the main formal use of the Roslindale Square Substation from a restaurant to a beer garden, which will let Turtle Swamp Brewing of Jamaica Plain keep operating there on a more permanent basis.

Turtle Swamp owner John Lincecum says he already has some plans for the space - and the square itself - as big as the new window he hopes to have installed this summer to replace what are now giant sheets of wood covering up the Washington Street side of the old Boston Elevated Railway trolley power plant.

Turtle Swamp had operated a winter beer garden - which kept getting extended well past the end of winter - under a series of temporary permits from the city; the city had originally designated the building for restaurant use. The new designation means Lincecum no longer has to worry about endlessly seeking temporary permits and has more flexibility in terms of opening the beer garden beyond its current Thursday-Sunday schedule for both public events and things such as weddings and birthday parties.

After a zoning hearing this morning, at which his request for a use change was supported by both the mayor's office and the office of City Councilor Tim McCarthy, Lincecum said he is planning a Sept. 14 "coming out" party for the beer garden, as well as plans for using the first floor of the substation beyond just serving up beer, by turning it into more of a community-oriented center, as envisioned by Roslindale Village Main Street and Historic Boston, which spearheaded the renovation of the historic structure.

Lincecum said the huge space would be ideal as a performance hall for bands that need more room than the intimate spaces now offered at such Roslindale Square locations as Birch Street Bistro and the Square Root, and that he's already working with acoustic engineers to figure out the best sorts of sound-dampening curtains and other materials to dampen some of the reverb in a brick space with high ceilings. He said he's reached out to Roslindale Porch Fest, which is on Sept. 14, about using the space as a performance area.

Lincecum can't operate a kitchen inside the building - the Boston Fire Department said he'd need an extensive, and expensive, fire suppression system installed first - but he said he hopes to expand food offerings inside the beer garden by working with restaurants in Roslindale Square to offer an easy way for beer drinkers to order take-out - possibly through an iPad-based ordering system.

He added he's also working closely with the owners of Distraction Brewing, who are nearing their own opening of a brewery on Belgrade Avenue on the other side of Roslindale Square. He said the two beer businesses are more collaborative than competitive - as one example, on days when Lincecum closes the beer garden for a private event, he would send thirsty would-be customers over to Distraction.



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their imperial porter is amazing. this made my day. when Distraction finally opens I'm in trouble :)

Voting closed 35

Great news for Turtle Swamp and for Roslindale! Cheers!

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Hope they can make that happen. Rozzie Square could be the next Somerville for live music.

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Hence the owner working to get echo-canceling curtains and the like.

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They have started music already. Concert on Jul 18: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/music-at-the-substation-presents-charles-ov...

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I'm still curious as to the finances of the space. Somebody is taking it in the teeth on the renovation costs and it's weird how obscure that information is. I can't imagine Turtle Swamp is paying more than market rate rent which wouldn't cover the construction costs.

Any Roslindale insiders have info they'd care to share?

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Not so secretive if you have the Google. The reno was part of the deal for the developer to build the condos. It's been heavily reported here and elsewhere.

Hint: market rate condos sell for a lot more money then they cost to build.


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Do you mean the prior renovations? There's not much else required to happen inside there now since there will be no restaurant build out. Much of the previous exterior and interior work was grant funded which is public knowledge. The majority owner of the space has put some money into it too. That's basically it.

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The apartments that wrap around the substation were part of a single project that helped pay for the substation renovation. Historic Boston, which was one of the three main proponents (the others being Roslindale Village Main Street and, er, a developer whose name I can't remember) specializes in this sort of creative development to rehab historic buildings like the substation.

Voting closed 8

Speaking of the window on Washington Street and Roslindale Village Main Street, the group just announced a foundation will pay $30,000 to have the window installed.

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