The height of the new Encore Boston Harbor resort seems larger than life, but its shadow is even more massive, and restaurant owner Valery Joseph said it’s a shadow that has rolled over her small business to the point of closure.
Joseph, a longtime Everett resident, said she will close La Perle on Lower Broadway March 16, one of the last remaining small businesses in the area of the casino project.
The onslaught of construction worker parking, street closures, dust, endless traffic and changes in the traffic configuration (making it next to impossible to get to her restaurant) have just become too much for her to continue.
“I would have loved to stay,” she said from her empty, Caribbean-themed dining room on Monday. “I’ve been here since 2011. My location would be the perfect spot. I know Caribbean food is very popular and they weren’t going to have that in the casino. The customers try to come, but they can’t get here. It’s not easy for a group of people trying to come here and they’re circling and circling to find a spot. They just give up. It’s discouraging and they leave. We’ve been struggling the last year with this. If it weren’t for take-out and catering, we would have already closed. The casino is aware of it, but they don’t care. I don’t know what God has in store for me, but my plan is to re-open somewhere. I just never saw this coming. Never saw it.”
After a great run on Lower Broadway, she said she has had to cancel lucrative catering orders from universities like Northeastern and Boston University, as well as weddings and functions.
Joseph has lived in Everett with her family since coming from Haiti 16 years ago. After becoming a registered nurse, she dreamed of opening a restaurant in Everett with her family. In 2011, they moved on that dream and opened La Perle on Lower Broadway. Times were very good for the restaurant and it wasn’t uncommon for Joseph to have a packed house Thursday through Sunday.
While most all of their Caribbean food was popular, she said it was the fried goat (known as Tasso Kabrit in Haitian Creole) – with black rice – that attracted people by the dozens to her place.
Joseph also frequently ran community dinners to help feed the homeless and underprivileged in Everett, and she said the restaurant helped her pay to get a Master’s Degree and nursing certifications.
Even when the casino began to generate excitement on Lower Broadway, she said she was all for it. She put a sticker in the window and Encore sometimes would order large catering requests from her. It seemed like a win-win.
“Some of my customers would tell me it’s great, and others would say it wasn’t going to be great,” she said. “It went back and forth. I thought it would be good. I supported it; I put a sticker in my window. I didn’t know. I didn’t know it was that close, that it was going to have that kind of impact from across the street. If it’s across the street, how can I be in their way? Why do I have to be gone? That was my question and I just didn’t see this coming. We went back and forth with them, and they were not nice, but respectful. They do it as a business. It’s their job to push you away and feel you can’t do it anymore. That’s life.”
Joseph said it started with the construction parking, where constructions workers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, and sometimes into the night, would flood the streets with their vehicles and take every available spot – despite the large parking lot available to them.
Councilors Fred Capone and Michael McLaughlin helped her to get 15-minute parking signs in front of her place to prohibit their parking, but she said they parked there anyway.
“Our customers had nowhere to park,” she said. “Even with the signs, I had to call dispatch and the Police Department to come get them out of my spots. It’s not friendly. My customers would give up. They would order food, but they couldn’t get here to pick it up. So, after trying, they would call and cancel. We would end up with all these orders. It’s hard for the customers. So, if they can’t get here and can’t park here, we have to move.”
Matters heightened when the road construction started last spring. With Broadway tied up, the back streets often closed, and Bow Street re-routed, Joseph said her business was all-but impossible to get to. Soon, when left-turn lanes were blocked, the delivery drivers from Uber Eats and other companies even stopped coming.
She said she went to the Chamber meetings for Lower Broadway businesses and the casino, but there was no progress – nothing changed she said. In fact, she said she only found more businesses near here that were angry and also suffering.
To top it off, her pest control company wasn’t able to get to the restaurant recently due to traffic, and they told her their monthly checks would double in price.
All of it added up to an inability for one to exist with the other, she said, so now she’s throwing in the towel.
She said she has hopes of going elsewhere in Everett, but the real estate market for restaurants isn’t easy – even in a place like Everett Square.
“I want to stay in Everett, but I don’t see anything in Everett,” she said. “It’s really about real estate. If I get something in Everett, it would be better for me to do the liquor transfer and not start from scratch. They know me at City Hall so it would be a smooth transfer. Again, I don’t know what my future holds, but I want to keep my business.”