In a major, pro-business policy shift towards the city’s restaurant and bar owners, the License Commission voted 2-0 last Wednesday, July 10th, to restore the 2 a.m. bar closing hours – just four years after the previous Commission rolled the closing hour back to 1 a.m.
Chair Joe Quarantello Jr. and Member John LaCroix voted in favor of going back to 2 a.m., and Member Linda Guinasso voted ‘present.’ Both Quarantello and LaCroix were not on the Commission in 2007 when it was voted to roll back the hours, and both are relatively new appointments. Guinasso is the lone member who served on the Commission during that time.
Quarantello said he felt that bar owners and restaurants had suffered quite a bit since the 2008 rollback to 1 a.m. – putting them at a competitive disadvantage.
“We felt this gives people an opportunity to run a business on an even playing field,” he said. “I think with the surrounding communities having 2 a.m. closings in Malden and Saugus and East Boston, it gives them an advantage over our business owners. I want to level the playing field for them. I think the City is much different than it was seven or eight years ago. You don’t see the places you used to. I don’t think you’ll see the places like the Lighthouse or Rose’s like in the 1970s and 1980s. I just felt we shouldn’t penalize all the owners for the few that didn’t run their businesses properly.”
There was virtually no opposition to the once-controversial proposal – aside from RevereCARES – who has even relaxed its stance a bit. Katie Sugarman of RevereCARES called for an inclusive study group prior to approving any new measures, but that was rebuffed in the face of many, many business owners who packed the Chambers.
RevereCARES indicated that it would respond to the roll forward, but did not immediately have a comment.
The approval last week doesn’t immediately open up the field for everyone. Each establishment must apply to the License Commission individually and, if approved by the Commission, would be able to extend the hours on Aug. 15th.
Attorney Larry Simeone represented the bar owners, more specifically the Revere Restaurant and Bar Association. He said he had represented that organization extensively in 2009, and was called upon again prior to last week’s hearing.
He said he expected 10 to 15 of his clients to apply immediately.
Vincent Giacchetti of Lynnfield, who owns and operates the Esquire Club on Lee Burbank Highway, has spearheaded that organization for years. However, newer members such as Volare on Broadway also spoke in favor.
“These owners had a significant amount of financial injury,” Simeone told the Journal. “Some lost 25 percent of their gross income from the rollback. For others, they’ve lost millions since 2008. There’s also the loss of jobs. I think that’s pretty significant. At a time when we’re talking about creating jobs, this is something that took them away.”
Simeone cited at least six establishments that have gone under since the rollback in 2008, asserting that a major part of their downfall came due to the loss of revenue from the 1 a.m. closing time.
“I always felt like it wasn’t fair to penalize everyone,” he said. “We have a lot of new businesses and a new administration and maybe it’s time to let these establishments each be evaluated on their performance. This is what they do in Chelsea.”
After the vote, he said his clients were extremely excited, with many ready to immediately apply for the extended hours.
Most City Councillors stayed away from the hearing.
Councillor Bob Haas had voiced his opposition recently for rolling forward the hours, and Councillor John Powers was against the change, but was unable to attend the meeting.
“I thought it should have been left the way it was,” he told the Journal afterward. “I think that since they did go back to 2 a.m., the owners of these establishments should be extremely vigilant about overserving, serving to minors and stopping violence. I actually thought if they had to do something, they should have locked the door at 1 a.m. and let everyone stay until 2 a.m. You don’t want people driving into the City at one minute past 1 a.m. to have a couple of drinks. Time will tell whether wisdom prevailed.”
Mayor Dan Rizzo said he supported and stood by the Commission’s decision to go to 2 a.m.
“To me, it has always seemed like a solution in search of a problem,” he told the Journal. “I don’t think it sends a very good signal to investors and the development world that Revere is a good place to be. We want them to come here and know that they can earn a living without us getting in their way. If people don’t do the right thing, we can impose the strongest discipline we’re allowed to dole out. If you’re doing the right thing, we won’t bother you. Businesses have too much to worry about already.”
Quarantello said he wouldn’t be afraid to take serious measures against an establishment not following the rules.
“I’d be very surprised if we have any issues, but if we do, I’m not opposed to rolling back someone’s hours,” he said.
He also said he was moved by the testimony of RevereCARES.
“They made a lot of very good points that resonated with me,” he said. “One thing I want to institute with this is that RevereCARES has best practices for bars and restaurants and I want to start including those in the licensing applications as a learning tool for owners.”
Revere Police were not as vocal on the issue as they were in the 2007 rollback discussion – when Commissioners all but relied on officers to steer their decision.
Police told the Journal that, after looking at the crime statistics, crime occurrences have not really changed since 2008 during the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. However, calls for service have gone down quite a bit.
Calls for service between those hours have gone from around 1,100 calls in 2007 to about 850 calls currently.