–By John Lynds
At a Boston Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on Tuesday, the attorney for Woody’s Liquors withdrew plans to build a takeout pizzeria inside the liquor store due to overwhelming opposition from neighbors.
The hearing came on the heels of the fourth in a series of community meetings held at the Orient Heights Community Center Monday night where abutters again expressed their concerns about the project.
Woody’s attorney, Daniel Toscano, did a good job at Monday’s meeting addressing some of the neighborhood’s concerns regarding facade improvements, trash, past business practices and hours of operation. For the first time in the series of meetings regarding Woody’s plans to use 1.500 sq. ft. inside the liquor store for a takeout pizzeria and sub shop, residents got to see John Wood’s plans for the outside, which included attractive signage, new windows and lighting that was compared by some as something you would see in Brookline Village.
However, many neighbors still had reservations about the plan and wanted to iron out a solid community agreement with Woody and Toscano before throwing support behind the plan.
At Monday’s meeting, hosted by City Councilor Sal LaMattina and Senator Anthony Petruccelli, the two elected officials were not convinced that all issues had been addressed by Wood and Toscano regarding the proposal.
At Monday’s community meeting, LaMattina wanted to see Wood do all planned improvements to the facade before attaining a license for a pizzeria as a way to show the neighborhood he is serious about such improvements to the building.
“My biggest concern is that Mr. Wood will get the license for the establishment and delay work on the front of the building,” said LaMattina. “I’d like to see that work done first as a way of showing the neighborhood that he is serious about being a good business and a good neighbor.”
At Tuesday’s ZBA meeting, a handful of abutters to Woody’s, who gained over 65 signatures from neighbors opposed to the plan were present. They submitted their petition to the ZBA and where prepared to speak in opposition until Toscano withdrew the plans.
LaMattina, Petruccelli and the Mayor’s Office said they were prepared to oppose the proposal had Woody’s kept the plan on the table.
Neighbors of Woody’s Liquors said from the beginning that they would be unwilling to support any expansion of John Wood’s business until he cleans up his act and shows he can be a better neighbor — something that is done regularly in Orient Heights and the neighborhood.
Recently, the community refused to accept the owners of El Kiosko Bar and Restaurant in Orient Heights Square’s request that a proviso be lifted that was added 16 years ago to the owner’s liquor license that beer, wine and liquor would be served only in conjunction with food.
The request was not well received by neighbors and City Councilor Sal LaMattina.
LaMattina provided a laundry list of things he wanted to see El Kiosko do before he’d entertain any suggestion of a change. This included having El Kiosko turn down music at night and end loud music at a reasonable hour, having better security and management on the weekends to ensure there are no problems outside the bar at closing time and he also wanted to see El Kiosko go a stretch without receiving a licensed premise violation.
Also, LaMattina wants to see the ownership invest on a facade improvement and work with his office and East Boston Main Streets to take down all the clutter from the windows, install new and attractive signage and lightening and ensure the establishment becomes a more inviting place for the entire community.
Owners of El Kiosko have already begun adhering to many of LaMattina requests and pledged to do more. LaMattina said he would sit down with the owners and draw up another community agreement that his office and the owners of El Kiosko could present to the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council in the near future.
Now the question is whether Woody’s will do the same?