Boston Beer Works tries for Davis Square space
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 08:09
The Somerville community held a meeting on Monday to discuss a proposal from Boston Beer Works, a restaurant and brewery, to occupy a vacant space at 240 Elm St. in Davis Square.
The unoccupied location is situated directly opposite to restaurants Diva and Red Bones and has 9,000 square feet of space, according to Somerville Alderman At Large John Connolly.
After previously occupying the space for nearly 25 years, the Social Security Administration vacated the area around two years ago, Connolly explained.
Property owner Michael Argiros approached Boston Beer Works about the space around six months ago, according to Boston Beer Works Owner Joe Slesar.
Slesar said he believes that Davis Square would be a good location for a brewery based on his experience as a Charlestown resident and frequenter of Somerville.
“Having owned Beer Works, having started it 21 years ago and then being the owner, I do know a lot about the communities in and around Boston,” Slesar told the Daily. “Somerville is a great community, and Davis Square is a bustling neighborhood of residents and business.”
Boston Beer Works began seeking approval from the Somerville Licensing Committee in August to get the space but was unable to attain approval, Ward 6 Alderman Representative Rebekah Gewirtz said.
“It’s a very important space, and I did not feel that [the timing] was appropriate at all,” Gewirtz told the Daily. “August is a time when many people are away. It’s not a time when you make big decisions that are going to impact the neighborhood for however long in the future. Perhaps, five, 10, 15 years, who knows.”
Beer Works tried again to be considered by the committee during the Sept. 16 agenda but consented to postponing consideration after a request by the committee, according to Slesar.
“I feel like they’re trying to move very quickly on this,” Gewirtz said. “The community has the right to be involved in this process and lend their voice and offer ideas and suggestions.”
Slesar said that Beer Works has made every effort to abide by typical procedures by discussing financial logistics with Argiros and hiring a local Somerville attorney who reached out to Somerville’s mayor and aldermen.
“You have to file paperwork in order to start the process,” Slesar said. “There are certain things that have to happen in a certain order. We have never once gone into a licensing hearing without talking to them. We moved [the meeting] at their request with no issue whatsoever on our part.”
Connolly, who lives by Davis Square off of College Avenue, said he relates to the concerns Somerville residents have about the kind of business Boston Beer Works would bring to the community.
“A lot of people are concerned about Davis becoming a drinking destination as opposed to a dining or nightlife entertainment area,” Connolly told the Daily. “Quite frankly, I don’t think folks want the same situation over in the Harvard, Allston, Brighton area.”
The City of Somerville spent almost 30 years trying to bring the Red Line to the square and has worked hard to keep high standards for the kinds of establishments that occupy its spaces, Connolly explained.
“I know the neighborhood well,” Connolly said. “I expect a lot of neighbors who live behind Davis, down Orchard Street, Chester Street are very concerned because when the places close at night, what do people do? They filter back into the neighborhoods. For the most part people can be respectful, but every once in a while there is someone who is loud, inconsiderate, obnoxious.”
Slesar said that his breweries do not bring the kinds of crowds that residents would be concerned about and that the majority of their business occurs before 11 p.m.
“We’re like the Foundry, or Flatbread [Company] or Five Horses,” Slesar said. “We want people to come in and dine, enjoy food and beer together. Our guests aren’t the ones going out after eating and throwing up all over the street. That is not our guest profile. We don’t even serve shots.”
The Monday night meeting, attended by between 60 and 70 local residents, gave the community a chance to voice these concerns and to hear more from the business about what it could offer the square, Gewirtz said.
“I think people had the opportunity to address their concerns, their opinions,” Gewirtz said. “My job is to create a forum for those sort of questions to come out so people feel comfortable expressing their concerns and their ideas. That’s what I work to do, last night when we had the meeting, and I’ll always try for that, [to] create a civil environment where everyone feels like they’re heard.”
Connolly said that Slesar made clear that the business is not a nightclub, but rather a craft brewery and restaurant.
“Almost all towns and cities of significance in the U.S. right now have embraced the fact of people actually making something in their town,” Slesar said. “Brewing, bringing back a craft, that’s what we do. We’re not some crazy guys that all it is a frat party. We care about beer and food.”
Slesar said that brewing is a distinctive skill and that bringing a brewery to Somerville would be a unique addition to the community. He added that despite the proximity to Tufts, he doubts undergraduates will be the bulk of his clientele.
“When I was a kid in college we used to go to the cheapest beer place,” he said. “We’re not the cheapest beer place, purposefully so. I mean, we handcraft our beer, we’re not selling it for three dollars.”
In Beer Works’ other locations, college students typically come only when their parents are in town, as the crowd tends to run a bit older than college-aged adults, Slesar said.
65 percent of Beer Works’ gross revenue in its other locations come from food, Slesar said. If approved, it would be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., with the kitchen open until 15 minutes before closing time to serve customers occupying the 200-plus seats that will be made available in the space.