The proposal for Monument Diner on Bunker Hill Street was continued at the License Board on March 3 to continue speaking with the community, and is to be back before the Board on March 31, according to License Board officials.
The proposal had an online public airing late last month on Feb. 28, and was met with a good amount of support, but also some real concerns by neighbors about the 1 a.m. closing time and the addition of the all-alcohol restaurant license.
Proposing the venture are the owners of Monument Restaurant on Main Street, and their reputation and track record were cited numerous times at the meeting as proof that they would run the establishment responsibly.
Monument co-owner Jon Sweeney said the neighborhood has supported them well over the last four years, and especially during COVID-19. That has given them confidence to try to create a new concept on Bunker Hill Street where the former Grasshopper Café was.
Sweeney said he lives two blocks from the site, and knows the area well.
“We know the location very well and we feel it’s an underserved part of the neighborhood,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot from people that they hope this remains a restaurant. So that’s our goal is to open a restaurant there in the spirit of the old location serving breakfast and lunch with the addition of dinner and the addition of a liquor license attached to it.”
Sweeney added that the liquor license is necessary to compete and stay in business, which is why it’s being added – and that they don’t intend to create a bar atmosphere or all-day drinking spot.
“We really need to have a liquor license there to compete,” he said. “Much like the Monument, this would be food focused and family friendly…We can’t do what was there before, a quiet place that closes at 2 p.m. We need to serve dinner and to serve dinner and compete we need a liquor license. The concept we’ve chosen is probably the least threatening we could choose…This isn’t going to be a place where buddies go down and watch the Pats play and drink beers.”
The renovations would be minimal, though they would remodel to their brand and open up the kitchen. Also, they would create a small bar – 10 feet long – where the cashier area was at the Grasshopper where people could eat and drink. It would have 74 seats and 14 standing spots for its capacity.
Neighbors Liz Whiteley and Tim O’Brien had issues with the hours and the liquor license, saying it could cause disruptions that weren’t there in the past when Grasshopper closed at 2 p.m.
“I am concerned about the All-Alcohol license and the 1 a.m. operating hours and the impact those operating hours could have on direct abutters and close abutters,” said Whiteley.
Added O’Brien, “The hours could have a negative effect…All it takes is a small group for a neighborhood like this to create a big disruption.”
Neighbor Richard McCarthy was also concerned about late hours.
“If it’s a restaurant versus a bar it would be much better if the hours were adjusted during the week when you’re not likely to have as much business and then Friday and Saturday maybe stay open until 11 p.m. or midnight,” he said.
However, just as many folks were excited about the proposition and gave full support and confidence to the local ownership.
“I would lend my full support to for this license,” said Steve Lakus. “We’ve had a restaurant in that space awhile…I’ve seen this group be successful elsewhere in Town. I think it’s something we’re really missing on Bunker Hill Street. I think the street has stayed a little too much residential in the last 15 or 20 years.”
Shannon Fabiano said Bunker Hill Street used to be much more commercial when she was younger, and keeping the restaurant in this space would be vital to giving some life to Bunker Hill Street.
“When I was growing up here, there were 10s of businesses down there,” she said. “To say it’s residential, then what is Main Street? There are lots of residences on Main Street. You have the whole Mishawum Development there, some 500 kids in there. I get the neighborhood concern and I appreciate everyone’s outlook, but I think it would totally revitalize this half of the Town.”