The Board of Selectmen, which after two years’ of meetings and discussions denied developers the right to open a restaurant at 978 Worcester St., granted the necessary license to a separate group during a meeting Monday night.
Developers, architects and select counsel went before the board Monday night to request a common victualler’s license to open an American-style restaurant on Route 9 East near the Natick line. After some discussion about traffic flow and parking in the area, the board voted unanimously to grant the license.
The decision comes six months after the board denied the prospective developers and owners of “Justine’s” restaurant because of issues with traffic flow, parking and more specifically a residential building the developers planned to own and operate behind the street-facing restaurant.
Owners Tony Melchionda - who was briefly associated with Justine’s - and William Breidenbach recruited the help of architect Clark Brewer and traffic and parking consultant Jeffrey Dirk, who worked on the failed Justine’s project as well.
The parking need for the site is a total of 137 spaces for the peak parking demand, according to town executive director Hans Larsen at the meeting.
The intended restaurant will have 85 seats, according to the owners, who did not seek information on an alcohol license – (Though there is a vote pending that could reduce the number of seats required for a liquor license from 100 to 50, restaurants still must have 100 seats to maintain a liquor license.) Representatives from Justine’s sought 135 seats, which was a hang up for the board in August.
Selectwoman Katherine Babson said before the vote she was still skeptical that the restaurant’s parking could function normally at the tight Route 9 space.
“I hate to be a stickler on this,” she said, “I still don’t know exactly how we come out on the issue of off-site parking.”
Melchionda argued that the parking and construction of the lot are secondary to his group’s goals.
“I know the parking has been a very tough issue for the town, but what I’m hearing tonight is ‘What about the construction?’” he said. “What we want to do is open up a restaurant.
“We have nothing to do with the building being constructed in the back of that property,” he said, making slight reference to the previous developer’s interest in operating a residential apartment building in an existing structure behind the restaurant.
Sensing frustration, Town Counsel Al Robinson advised Melchionda against similar statements.
“Quit while you’re ahead,” he said to Melchionda. “You’re so close at this moment. Sit tight.”