DeLuca’s Owner Agrees to Postpone Licensing Board Date to Work on Good Neighbor Agreement

DeLuca’s Market owner Virgil Aiello has agreed to postpone his scheduled hearing with the city’s Licensing Board as he works on hammering out a good-neighbor agreement with the Beacon Hill Civic Association regarding his plans to offer table service, including beer and wine, at the market’s Charles Street location.

The business, which currently has an all-alcohol “off-premises” license, is seeking an “on premises” beer-and-wine license from the city, which would allow them to offer these beverages in conjunction with its existing 20-seat Common Victualler (CV) License. If their application is approved, table service would be offered from noon to 9 p.m., daily, said Aiello, with beer and wine served only with menu items, including the sandwiches, specialty cheeses, and charcuterie boards that the market already sells.

“Our customers have asked for [this service], and we see that it would be of interest to both residents and tourists who come to Beacon Hill,” said Aiello during an Aug. 4 meeting on his application sponsored by the BHCA Zoning and Licensing Committee. “We don’t anticipate the business changing in any [other] way.”

Seated dining would be offered at four tables located near the existing self-serve coffee machines on the right-hand side of the store while facing the building, said Aiello, and a new entrance would be created to directly access this area.

(DeLuca’s comprises three connected buildings at 7, 9, and 11 Charles St., respectively, with the proposed location for the dining area at 7 Charles St., according to Tom Clemens, committee co-chair.)

The market has also received approval from the city to set up another four-person table on the sidewalk outside the store, said Aiello, and if their application for the beer-and-wine license is approved, dining service would be offered there as well.

“The four seats outside the store are not set up yet, but we believe they would be included in the 20 seats,” said Aiello, who added that unseated patrons wouldn’t be served drinks or food. “We’re pretty satisfied with 16 seats inside and four outside.”

Deluca’s has a full kitchen in the back, he added, along with ample refrigeration space for food items and beer, as well as sufficient storage space for trash.

As for providing on-site restrooms for patrons, two non-ADA accessible facilities are located on the market’s ground level near where the proposed dining area would be situated, said Aiello, while a unisex, ADA-accessible restroom in the basement would be accessible via an elevator near the kitchen after patrons have passed through a passageway (which connect the three adjoining buildings comprising DeLuca’s) to reach it.

Echoing his statements from the July 14 city-sponsored abutters’ meeting, Aiello said the store’s current employees would expand their duties to also work as servers, as well as to ensure that tables are bused in a timely manner after patrons have finished and left. But, he added, former DeLuca’s staff members and others in the restaurant business, who are “licensed to serve alcohol” and equipped “to handle large crowds” are on “standby,” if needed.

Aiello said his daughters, ages 41 and 31, respectively, have expressed interest in taking over DeLuca’s when he retires.

“My two daughters have expressed interest in operating the business,” he said. “I would sign it over and change licenses to them when they take over, and they would establish a new business and run it on their own with the DeLuca’s name.”

(Aiello owns both the market’s Charles Street and Newbury Street locations, he said, while the Charles Street building that’s home to DeLuca’s is in a family trust, which includes him as one of the beneficiaries.)

Asked where a box truck owned by the business is usually parked, Aiello responded it has a residential sticker, and is usually parked in a residential space on Branch Street.

Aiello also responded to questions about the temporary closure of the Charles Street market by the city’s Board of Health approximately four or five years ago, saying this came after the city had issued them violations for storing food at improper temperatures, unsanitary conditions in the kitchen sunk, “and things like that.” After the violations were issued, the market’s effort to remedy the situation weren’t to the city’s satisfaction, he added, so the business was closed briefly pending a hearing with the Board of Health.

Additionally, while the city had investigated Aiello after residents alleged he had removed food items from DeLuca’s on Charles Street following a four-alarm blaze there in 2010 and resold them at the Newbury Street store, he said he was eventually cleared of the allegations, and that the city took “no disciplinary action on the liquor or Common Victualler licenses” at that time.

Concerns over these incidents were previously raised at the virtual July 14 abutters meeting when most of the around 25 abutters and neighbors in attendance strongly opposed granting DeLuca’s a beer-and-wine license.

Molly Griffin, the city’s newly named neighborhood liaison to Beacon Hill, said since that meeting, the city has received 13 letters regarding the DeLuca’s proposal – three in support, one of non-opposition, and nine opposing, with critics of the plan citing health-code violations, frequent improper storage of trash, and the proposed addition of an outdoor table amid already congested sidewalk conditions, among other concerns.

Those who supported the proposal, she added, said they were pleased to “see a refreshing new space in an historic store in an historic neighborhood” and also encouraged the city to support businesses, including DeLuca’s, coming out of the pandemic.

All of the letters, along feedback from the abutters meeting, have been “put on record” by the city, said Griffin, and forwarded to the city’s Licensing Board for consideration in making their determination on the DeLuca’s application for the license.

At the conclusion of the Aug. 4 meeting, Aiello agreed to defer his upcoming hearing date with the Licensing Board, and to work on a good neighbor agreement with the BHCA in the meantime. The Zoning and Licensing Committee voted to defer the matter until the next BHCA board meeting on Sept. 13 when it will go to the full board for a vote. (At that time, the board will likely decide whether to send the city a letter of non-opposition or opposition in regard to the application.)

Had Aiello not acquiesced to the request for the good neighbor agreement, the BHCA would’ve sent a “standing letter of opposition” to the city regarding the DeLuca’s application, said Clemens.

Nine members supported the motion, and there was one of vote non-opposition, while Meghan Awe, president of the BHCA board, cast the only vote against it.

The good neighbor agreement that Aiello will enter into with the BHCA would be similar to the one that he and his brother, Bob, entered into with the group in 2013 when DeLuca’s on Charles Street applied for their CV license, while the new one will be revised to reflect the terms of their current application with the city, according to Clemens.

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