BHCA Zoning and Licensing Committee Votes to Oppose DeLuca’s Application

The Beacon Hill Civic Association Zoning and Licensing Committee voted at its Sept. 1 meeting, which took place virtually, to oppose DeLuca’s Market’s plans to offer table service, including beer and wine, at its Charles Street location, regardless of whether the business owner enters into a good neighbor agreement with the group, as was previously agreed upon by both parties.

DeLuca’s, 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 between the proposed hours of 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily, with beer and wine served only with menu items, including the sandwiches, specialty cheeses, and charcuterie boards that the market already sells, said Virgil Aiello, the business owner.

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, 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 7 Charles St., abutting the building where two benches are now located, said Aiello, and if their application with the city is approved, and if DeLuca’s does in fact set up a table outside,  dining service, including beer and wine,  could be offered there as well.

During an Aug. 4 virtual meeting on his application sponsored by the Zoning and Licensing Committee, Aiello agreed to enter into a good neighbor agreement with the BHCA. The agreement would be similar to the one that Aiello and his brother, Bob, entered into with the group in 2013 when DeLuca’s  applied for their CV license, although the new agreement was to be expanded on, and revised and updated, to reflect the new proposal as well , said Clemens at that time.

At this week’s committee meeting, Clemens said he and Aiello had hammered out most of the terms of a new good neighbor agreement that was posted in draft form on the BHCA website.

Besides the provisions typically included in a BHCA good neighbor agreement, DeLuca’s finalized agreement would contain a stipulation that the business would commit to storing all trash and recyclables indoors until just prior to pickup, and that trash and recyclables at no time be deposited or stored on Charles Street, or in the alley between Beacon and Branch streets.

Aiello said DeLuca’s had agreed “about eight years ago” not to leave the trash out on the street or in the alley. “That’s what we’ve done and there have been no complaints about trash since that change was put in place,” he added.

Aiello said he was unaware of any other issues with the operation of DeLuca’s that haven’t already been addressed.

Several committee members asked what the role of Aiello’s two daughters, ages 41 and 31, would have in running DeLuca’s, as he had previously indicated they had expressed interest in taking over the business when he retires.

Aiello replied that he and his daughters have been working together on him handing off the business to them for about the past year, but “it’s very time consuming.”

Moreover, Aiello said the BHCA good neighbor agreement would be with the corporation that owns DeLuca’s, and since both of his daughters are corporation members, they would be bound by the terms of any such agreement.

In response to an inquiry the Civic Association received from a resident about a broken awning at the store, Aiello responded the awning company he had used in the past went out of business, but that he would seek to remedy the situation.

But despite all Aiello’s assurances, some committee members remained unconvinced, pointing to the outpouring of opposition from neighbors to the plan evident at not only the Aug. 4  Zoning and Licensing Committee meeting, but also at a city-sponsored meeting on the application held virtually July 14. (No neighbors on hand for last week’s meeting opposed Aiello’s plan, however.)

“It would be granting a license that’s perpetual almost until a change in operator,” said committee member, Al Van Ranst, of Aiello’s pending application. “By not opposing it, we have limited leverage or recourse if we [take issue with the business’s operation] and apparently that’s been a problem in the past.”

Added Van Ranst, “The good neighbor agreement doesn’t give us any teeth to hold them accountable.”

Eleven committee members voted in favor of a motion to oppose the application with the city, while Clemens and committee, member, Josh Leffler, opted not to oppose it. No committee members abstained from voting on the motion.

The committee will report its determination to the BHCA board of directors at the next board meeting on Sept. 13. The board will then vote on the matter and report its own decision to the city’s Licensing Board, which is scheduled to hear the DeLuca’s application on Oct. 6.

In another matter, the committee voted unanimously not to oppose a proposed application with city for Bin 26 Enoteca to expand its existing beer-and-wine license to include cordials (liqueurs).

“We just celebrated 15 years in business, and I don’t think we probably would’ve been prompted to do this except many others on street are getting cordials licenses,” said Babak Bina, owner of the restaurant located at 26 Charles St. “We’d like to be able to offer Sambuca (an Italian liqueur) with coffee or dessert. That’s our impetus for wanting to do this, and it doesn’t change our operation in any way, shape, or form.”

In essence, Bina said, “The main thing is the need and demand from neighbors is there [for this service] and we simply want to fulfill that ask.”

Bina also assured committee members that this isn’t the first step in pursuing a full liquor license for the establishment.

“A fill liquor license is something I’d never consider for Bin 26 Enoteca,” said Bina. “but I want to be lockstep with everyone else and provide same level of products and services that neighborhood is seeking.”

Clemens described Bin 26 Enoteca as a “high-quality food-and-wine operation that’s been with us for 15 years, with in effect, a spotless record as far as the Civic Association is concerned,” and said  a one-paragraph addendum for the proposed license change could be made to the  existing good neighbor agreement, which has been in place since the restaurant opened..

Bina said he hasn’t yet scheduled a hearing with the Licensing Board for the application, as he deferred to the BHCA Zoning and Licensing Committee first as a courtesy, but added that he would let Clemens know as soon as he has scheduled a date with the city.

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