Residents Oppose Proposed Restaurant On Bennington Street

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

An overwhelming majority of residents in attendance at an abutters meeting last week voiced their displeasure with a proposed restaurant at 636-638 Bennington Street.

According to Attorney Francisco Gonzalez Palacio, who processed the application on behalf of the applicant, the proponents are seeking a beer, wine, and cordials license, a common victualler license, and live entertainment from the licensing board to operate a proposed restaurant called El Parche with 40 seats and operating hours from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

It should be noted that the corporation proposing to do business as El Parche is El Parche LLC. According to the Secretary of State’s website, the LLC’s manager is Mery D. Quintana.

“The business proposes to have a diverse menu — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — that will include diverse, ethnic foods from different countries,” said Palacio.

“The idea of having live entertainment is to have background music and to be able to have TV screens to broadcast entertaining music videos or news or sports events.”

Palacio described the proposed restaurant as a space that would be “amenable to the public” and that the applicant has experience working in this type of business for more than 20 years.

He also indicated that the applicant has hired a licensed contractor who “has obtained all of the required permits in order to make the site compliant with the requirements of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), the building department.”

Palacio also mentioned that the site has undergone renovations for the last eight months or so, but they did not have any photos to show during the meeting. Further, the proposed restaurant operators are renting the property from the building owner.

However, it should be noted that Eva Jones, a Community Engagement Specialist from the city who hosted the meeting, said that the occupancy permit to change the occupancy from what was previously a hair salon to a restaurant has been considered abandoned by ISD.

In speaking about the occupancy permit, Palacio said, “We are following up with the Inspectional Services Department through the contractor who pulled the permits originally… apparently there was some kind of oversight, some kind of confusion with the paperwork because they initially, from the beginning, intended to change the occupancy of the premises to comply with the requirements in order to operate a restaurant.”

Jones also addressed the zoning aspect of the proposal, which seemed to need more clarification when it was brought up during this month’s Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) meeting, during which there was a conversation about the abutters meeting.

Jones detailed that under new zoning, the site sits in the East Boston Residential (EBR)-4 district, which allows for restaurant uses on the first floor.

Following Palacio’s brief presentation, which did not feature building plans or photos, residents were allowed to comment or ask questions.

An attendee in the chat thought the restaurant would not benefit the neighborhood and had concerns about the lack of parking and the potential for drunk patrons exiting the restaurant at 2:00 a.m. and asked about security plans.

Regarding security plans, Palacio indicated that the owners would provide security during the late hours of operation and mentioned someone would guard the entry.

“As I stated earlier, Ms. Quintana has a long experience in working in this business line, and she understands the obligation and her responsibility not to serve people who are visibly inebriated,” said Palacio.

Ellen Agostinelli, a resident whose backyard abuts the property, said she was upset about the process that has begun and shared concerns about a ramp that had been taken down at the property.

Moreover, she had questions about soundproofing, deliveries, and the potential for an outdoor patio and said, “I think that this is really going to ruin the neighborhood.”

In speaking about the ramp, Jones indicated that the city is in contact with ISD and has asked why the ramp was removed.

Palacio also spoke about the ramp and mentioned he would have to find out more about it. Moreover, he said that inside the proposed restaurant, the bathrooms are handicap accessible, and the idea is to have ramp access into the business.

Regarding soundproofing, he said, in part, “The place is being insulated with the latest available technology.” Further, he emphasized that the live entertainment aspect of the proposal is intended for background music and the TV screen for sporting events rather than a party-like atmosphere.

Ed Deveau, a resident who previously served on the city’s Zoning Board, had the impression that even under new zoning, live entertainment was forbidden or conditional, meaning the project would need zoning relief.

Deveau also thought that under the new zoning, the applicant would be required to provide off-street parking, which he said the applicant could not do, which would require zoning relief.

“So I believe it is premature for the applicant to proceed with a licensing hearing until they have fully met with the new zoning requirements,” said Deveau.

Moreover, he said the request for live entertainment and 40 patrons in such a small building “defies logic” and that the operating hours were “egregious.”

After Deveau’s statements, Jones said, “We are also doing our own research to make sure they are within line. This is very important to us that a business that is going into a neighborhood as such is within the right controls.”

As the meeting continued, more residents asked questions and raised concerns. One concern was how deliveries would be made to the restaurant, especially for large vehicles like trucks, given the lack of parking space.

Regarding the delivery plan, Palacio said someone from the restaurant would obtain the food products from the restaurant depot and bring them back.

Regarding alcohol delivery, Palacio mentioned it would be provided by a distributor and argued that a truck would not necessarily bring the alcohol since it is a smaller establishment.

Other residents were dissatisfied with the late operating hours and occupancy, raised concerns about where trash would be stored, did not like the potential establishment near a school, and feared that it would essentially be a nightclub in a residential area.

In responding to some of these concerns, Palacio acknowledged that the operating hours might be ambitious, indicated the manager would be in charge of occupancy, and said a dumpster is planned adjacent to the property’s second means of egress.

Ultimately, Skip Marcella, an HVNA Board Member, probably best summed up the community’s sentiment: “This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and as somebody indicated, this is a bar; this is not a restaurant.” Later, he added that the neighborhood does not want it.

In closing the meeting, Jones assured residents this would not be the only abutters meeting on the proposal and encouraged Palacio and his client to “plan something else for the community because they have clearly been dissatisfied with what is being brought to them.”

To view a recording of the abutters meeting, visit the HVNA’s Facebook page — — which has a link to the recording.

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