Stephen Judge purchased the Westside Family Restaurant from the Panousos family last year and now the new owner wants to try his hand at convincing the City Council to allow him to serve alcohol at the Lowell Street eatery.
Judge, through his attorney John Keilty, is asking the council to remove a condition on the special permit for the restaurant that prohibits alcoholic beverages from being served or sold on the premises and then issue a new permit under which alcohol is OK. He's seeking an all-alcohol license in this case.
A public hearing is scheduled for tonight during the council's regular session at 7:30 p.m.
Three years ago, former owner Michael Panousos asked the council for the same thing but just for beer and wine, which would help business in the economic downturn, but he eventually withdrew his request when it became clear he did not have enough votes in his favor.
A large part of the reason the council turned Panousos away at the time, however, was due to a history of issues with the neighbors. Some councilors also argued that because the restaurant is in a residential zoning district where alcohol is not an allowed business use that should have ruled out the request automatically.
The restaurant, however, is a pre-existing non-conforming use and according to both legal counsel for the city and Panousos at the time, the council could have lawfully chosen to strike the condition. It was debated whether adding alcohol would constitute a new use for the business or simply be a natural extension of a restaurant.
This time, as well, the Police Department remains opposed to allowing alcohol there.
Capt. John DeRosa, the area commander, noted in his report to Chief Robert Champagne that the restaurant is close several homes on Lowell Street and Samos Circle, as well as St. Adelaide's Church and the West School. "All of which raises some concerns if Westside Restaurant were allowed to serve alcoholic beverages in this densely populated residential area," DeRosa said.
"I feel that there would be more opportunity for disturbances, increased noise and the possibility of intoxicated patrons could operate motor vehicles...through this residential area, creating a public safety issue for both motorists and pedestrians," he said. He added that he would also be concerned that the owner might then try and extend the hours of operation to take full advantage of the ability to serve alcohol.
Champagne simply informed the council that he shares those concerns.
The initial special permit, which came with a lengthy list of conditions Panousos agreed to to appease the neighbors, allowed Panousos to demolish the former building at 682 Lowell St. and build the new restaurant in 2006.
The hours of operation are still 6 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday and 6 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.