The owners of the Caledonia 245-foot tall ship, and Pier 6 Restaurant, quickly proposed an idea to move the ship from its planned docking point in Dry Dock 2 to an area on Pier 6 next to their restaurant – hoisting the idea to the Navy Yard neighborhood and getting a hearing at the Licensing Board in one week’s time.
The hustle was certainly on as the original plan to put the boat on Dry Dock 2 as part of the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) summer activation plan didn’t materialize, and the heart of the summer (July 4th weekend) is but a few days away.
The License Board heard the petition on June 26, but an official decision wasn’t expected until later today, June 27. However, the Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard reported that the petition had been postponed by the Board, and the petitioner will come back with a new plan.
All of that was the setting for a heavily-attended abutter’s meeting outside on Pier 6 June 20, where a crowd of supporters and opponents gathered to hash out the plan for a new restaurant and patio that would essentially double the seating capacity for Pier 6.
Attorney Ryan Gazda and Owner Charlie Larner told the community they wanted to dock the ship alongside Pier 6 for the season, creating a 300 seat Oyster Bar and lounge that would exist via an extension of Pier 6’s restaurant liquor license. There would be several bathrooms and a very nice, professional kitchen with a hookup to water and sewer. Trash would be tightly monitored and the boat is currently being renovated in East Boston, but could be ready in a week for operation. Access would come via a gangway let down to the pier from the ship.
“We’re looking at putting (the ship) right here on Pier 6,” said Larner. “We’re planning on putting it here to keep it away from the neighborhood…It seemed we had more support for this location…We don’t want to do anything here to make more noise or create more disruption. We want to make it a better area to live in and that’s our focus.”
Larner said they also want to codify the patio area behind the restaurant – which is a parking lot area – and make it into a special events area. Right now, he said, they hold about six special events per year on that patio, but have to seek one-day licenses each time. The new license extension for the ship would allow them to also use the patio without having to get the one-day permits.
The big elephant in the room, however, was why the location at Dry Dock 2 within the BPDA’s heralded activation plans did not work out. Up until only about two weeks ago, the community believed that the tall shop would be docked at Dry Dock, but somewhere something went wrong.
John Fitzgerald of the BPDA said there were permit and infrastructure issues that were probably going to push that piece of the activation licenses to next year.
“We were planning to have the boat there this year, but there were permits from the Coast Guard they needed to get,” he said. “If he could get them this summer, we would work with him and grant the licenses. We would, otherwise, welcome him next summer.”
That leaves this summer to deal with.
Many residents were not happy with the plan, and the residents of Constellation Wharf had engaged an attorney – who brought up the Chapter 91 waterways issue. Pier 6 is under a consent decree with state environmental regulators and the Attorney General’s Office that dates back to a previous derelict owner who lost the property in the early 2000s. Chuck and Ann Lagasse have owned it for several years and have a plan to convert the pier into a world-class boat marina such as they did at the Charlestown Marina. That, however, has been slowed to a crawl by government red tape, and while they hope to get the marina approved soon, it likely won’t be until next summer.
Constellation’s Attorney Michael McDermott said the Chapter 91 issues should prevent the boat from docking there.
“The License Board should require you to show you have a right to use the area,” he said. “I would like to know how you will prove to the Licensing Board that you have the right to be on the patio as well…The dots do need to be connected here.”
Other neighbors felt the proposal was being overly simplified as well since it was a water-dependent use on a pier currently under a consent decree.
Stephanie Poster said the matter seemed more complex than an extension of a liquor license to a boat.
“I’d like to understand why you think it’s a liquor license issue,” she said. “I think there much more to it than that.”
Chuck Lagasse said he agreed to try for the boat idea with Larner because he believes it is allowed and that Larner could successfully operate it.
“As far as the boat is concerned, any boat of any size can come to the pier,” he said. “It’s a federal or state license issue…In the meantime when we don’t get the Chapter 91 cleared for the marina – we should have it within a matter of months I hope – Charlie asked if he could put the Caledonia here. He has the right to put the boat here, but doesn’t have the right to serve liquor. He can be here all year…We can put any boat here and have the space to provide for it.”
He also said he wouldn’t have entertained the idea with anyone else except Larner, whom he said has proven himself as a responsible business owner.
Kim Mahoney of the Warren Tavern and Charlestown Chamber said she supported the extension for the boat.
“I truly would support this 110 percent,” she said. “It’s great for the Navy Yard and for Charlestown.”
David Storto, a resident of the Navy Yard and president of Spaulding Rehab, said he also supports the boat and patio extension.
“Charlie has been very charitable with the community and he’s been a good neighbor,” he said. “I hope we can get to ‘yes’ in some way to make sure the Navy Yard is enhanced.”
But the overwhelming majority of neighbors had good things to say about Larner and Pier 6, but also had some grave concerns about traffic, parking and noise from what would be a doubling of the current operation only yards from their homes – and balconies.
“The proof will be in the pudding,” said Constance Perry, “but it’s right for you to hear the concerns of neighbors. They are not trying to put you down. I wonder what my life is going to be like in the summer.”