It’s looks as if Broadway is headed the way of Monte Carlo as the owner of China Roma Restaurant has proposed to set up a separate gaming business – creating a parlor for patrons to use the infamous phone card machines in yet another loophole casino.
After being severely chided by License Commission Chair Tom Henneberry last Thursday for making unapproved changes to the Roma to accommodate the phone card machines, owner Paul Musto told the Commission that the phone cards are separate from the restaurant and that he plans to present a proposal to open a separate business with a separate entrance that would contain only the machines – six of them to be exact.
“We’re going to downsize the layout of the restaurant and build a wall separating the two businesses,” said Musto, of Saugus. “People will come in and use the machines there.”
Said Commissioner Linda Guinasso, “You’re going to open a room where people just come in and play machines and that’s it? That’s what you’re looking for?”
“Yes,” replied Musto.
The long-time owner of the Roma told members of the Commission that he plans to start with six machines and to operate under a separate business entity with a separate entrance – though it would be in the same Broadway building.
Musto said he would bring the proposal to the Commission in August – a petition that officially cuts off part of the restaurant from Musto’s liquor license establishment.
Therein lies the key.
Just a few months ago, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) issued new regulations that call for all liquor license holders to remove the loophole slot machines from their premises. The phone card machines have existed for several years all over the city and are infamous at local convenience stores and restaurants. They work on the theory that they are a sweepstakes game, such as the frequent promotional games run at McDonalds or Dunkin’ Donuts, but allow patrons to play games of chance in order to win prizes or cash. They have operated outside of law enforcement action due to an established loophole in the state law.
In response to the ABCC’s new regulations, the Revere License Commission and Revere Police Department sent out notices to liquor license establishments to remove the machines.
Instead of removing them from the Roma, Musto simply built a wall inside his restaurant and separated the machines from the restaurant.
That angered Henneberry and others on the Commission.
“Upon receiving information from the Revere Police and the Inspectional Services Department, you did not remove the device, but instead built a wall around it,” said Henneberry. “You did this without making any attempt to apply for an alteration license for your establishment.”
Responded Musto, “When I received the letter, I separated the machines from the restaurant where alcohol is served. I put up a firewall and a door. The property is owned by another (company). I didn’t try to hide anything and I didn’t know I had to come before the Commission. I would have come if I’d have known and I’m sorry I didn’t.”
But Henneberry was particularly perturbed by the situation.
“In fact, Mr. Musto, sorry doesn’t cut it,” he said. “The fact you tried to wall off the device; you’re trying to finesse the issue. It’s still accessible to the patrons from your establishment…It has to go and you have to take it out. If you don’t, you will lose your liquor license.”
Musto continued to disagree with Henneberry, even when threatened with such actions.
“It’s a separate part of the building owned by a different company like the apartments I have above,” said Musto. “It’s a separate address and certainly none of my servers are going over there and serving alcohol.”
Commissioners weren’t buying it. They told him that the area with the machines was still listed on his liquor license as part of the square footage from the restaurant.
“What do I gotta do to keep those machines going?” he asked the Commission.
That’s when Musto laid out his plan to come back to the Commission in order to build an entirely separate phone card machine parlor.
Henneberry said he was welcome to come back with that proposal, but he was not allowed to operate the machines in the interim.
“Draw up a floor plan, submit an application and come before us and we’ll look at it,” Henneberry said.
“But you cannot use that machine now because it presently sits on the premises despite all your efforts to wall if off. You must discontinue its use or we will call you back in and suspend your license.”
In other action last Thursday at the License Commission:
•Cafeteria Las Delicias Colombianas at 86 Shirley Ave. got the okay to extend its hours after a probationary period. The restaurant recently procured an all alcohol liquor license and has operated without incident on The Ave for years. They will now close at midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekend.
•Woody’s Liquors on Broadway had a hearing in regard to having its hours rolled back at the June meeting. That roll back came from state reports about selling to underage persons in a sting operation. It’s not the first time Woody’s has been in trouble, and likely won’t be the last time. However, the owners indicated that they are re-training their employees and the matter was tabled.
•The Jack Satter House and other Beach condo buildings were to have a hearing regarding whether or not the residences need to procure one-day liquor licenses in order for residents to have wine, beer or liquor in common areas such as the dining halls. The controversial discussion was continued on request of the Satter House.
•Wonderland Dog Track – now owned by CBW Lending LLC – is in the midst of working out an agreement with the Commission to allow it to continue parking cars for Thrifty on the site. The company had to hand over its commuter parking license on July 1st when the new garage opened, but it believed that the contract parking was still allowed. The Commission disagreed, but allowed the status quo to continue until an agreement can be worked out at the August meeting.