Operators of Bone Up Brewery and Village Bar & Grill got the green light from the License Board on June 11 to have outdoor dining, but not without a stern tongue-lashing from City officials about rain and flooding.
The City had come out with a policy and process last week that was meant to streamline and simplify the opening for restaurants and breweries that were ready to do outdoor dining. City officials said they were going to do cursory inspections, but be willing to be as creative and open-minded as possible to save the establishments.
However, once at the License Board, the smooth ride took a bumpy turn as two established business fighting for their existence were almost turned away due to a four-year grudge about flooding in the parking lot.
Bone Up and Village Bar & Grill had set up a tent area in their parking lot – which has had a dry well installed for flooding in the last year – and intended to use the space in good weather for food and alcohol service. Both establishments would be separated.
However, ISD Director Jim Soper came down hard on the plan, saying he had serious concerns about flooding and felt it bordered on health code violations to be operating there.
“I think we’ll be swinging by on a daily basis,” said Soper. “If we see a puddle there at 8 in the morning, you’re not going to be serving at 8 at night…That’s an issue for us. If we have to swing by on a daily basis to see what’s going on before you open, we’re probably going to. That (parking lot) has to be as clean as the floor in your business…We gotta go down there every day. I guess so. We don’t really have to do that with everyone else…I’m here to help you, but this shouldn’t be as it is. That water should drain positively to the street and it’s be all over.”
Liz Kiraly of Bone Up indicated they had hoped things would go smoothly and they could open on Friday at noon, as did Village Bar & Grill. They both wondered if they would be able to get an inspection to open as they had thought.
“My Health Inspector, I have to pay him four hours of overtime to go do that,” Soper said. “So not in these budgetary times.”
John Lopes of Village said he was at the end of his rope, and he had to open or he would simply close down. He volunteered to pay the overtime for the inspector so he could open the next day.
“I don’t mind paying the Health Inspector if I have to,” he said. “I need to open. It’s been closed for three months and it’s just costing too much money to keep this place closed. If we can’t have this outdoor dining, I might as well close the doors. It’s too costly to stay closed.”
In the end, they were able to work it out and the Board passed their request by a vote of 2-0.
•Meanwhile, Night Shift Brewery was approved to open its outdoor space – much in the way it normally operates outdoor in the summer, but with an expanded area for social distancing.
That said, the Board wasn’t excited about an outdoor serving trailer that Night Shift wanted to use to protect its employees – allowing them to serve beer without having to go indoors. The trailer is used at VillageFest routinely, and on the Esplanade in Boston, but Commission Chair Phil Antonelli had reservations.
“The last thing I need for any establishment is to become a Gong Show,” he said. “This isn’t an outdoor party. This is a restaurant and a tap room trying to drum up business. I’m not insinuating funny business. I just want a level playing field. I’d like to see it before you use it.”
The Commission agreed to have Member Phil Arloro go down to Night Shift and take pictures of the trailer. After both members looked at it and understood it better, they would give the final approval to use the trailer.
Night Shift Brewery was approved, 2-0, to operate outdoors.
•In other news, Ferry Street Grill was approved to create an outdoor dining area in their large parking lot. The owners said they intended to use the opportunity to expand their hours and their liquor license service.
Chair Phil Antonelli said he thought it was a good idea, because their license had come close to be basically unused – known as a ‘pocket license.’ •Abbondanza Restaurant and BearMoose Brewery were on the docket for outdoor dining, but chose not to attend the meeting.