Cambridge’s B-Side Lounge To Become the Lord Hobo, Licensing Problems Ensue…

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I’ve written here and elsewhere about the continuing troubles and sordid history of the popular B-Side Lounge here in Cambridge. The coverage has even made it into the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe’s online editions. One of the last local pubs to be integrated into the neighborhood, the B-Side reminded me of the many great bars in Chicago that have similarly developed as part of the neighborhood’s social fabric. I grew up in the barrooms, taken there by my parents when socializing with their friends or after company softball games.

So the B-Side has a place in my heart. As part of my coverage, I’ve written about suitor Daniel Lanigan’s multiple travails in trying to take the place over. After successfully and persistently navigating the messy bankruptcy, taxation, and public auction issues, Lanigan is now trying to manage a tough situation with the B-Side’s neighbors that is pending before the Cambridge Licensing Commission. The Commission’s members, Richard Scali, Fire Chief Gerald Reardon, and Police Commissioner Robert Haas are to decide whether to approve the transfer of the B-Side’s alcoholic beverages license, which in a rarity allows for a 2 a.m. closing time, to Lanigan’s Checkraise LLC, whose partners will include Jean-Claude Mossa, Eric Yu, and Randall Bruker. Lanigan is proposing that his new bar, to be oddly named the Lord Hobo, will have operating hours Monday through Wednesday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. with a seating capacity of 95.

On March 24, Lanigan and his attorney appeared before the Commission and faced a pretty feisty group of neighbors who we’re pretty ticked off over how the B-Side handled neighborhood relations in the past. What followed is an interesting example of how bar culture fits into modern life, where citizens, even in a somewhat urban setting of Cambridge, fight to keep nightlife out of their areas. The City of Cambridge has apparently been fighting a slow yet steady war on ridding itself of local barrooms, in favor of centralized, non-neighborhood-based restaurants that also serve alcohol.

This story is made all the more interesting because of the Commission’s laudable practice of providing a written transcript of the proceedings. As many people don’t comprehend the inner workings of an application to get an alcohol license and some of the hurdles that bar owners have to face, I’ve decided to quote from the hearing. In attendance in support of Lanigan was his attorney, Karen Seymour of McDermott, Quilty and Miller. The entire transcript can be found on the Commission’s website. As you will note, the Commission planned to take additional testimony from Lanigan and his supports at its recent March 24 hearing, for which no transcript yet exists. The excerpts here do not reflect the entire proceedings, just parts I thought were of particular note. I’ve also decided to redact the names of the folks testifying from the neighborhood, although they are part of the public record.

Besides the unusual name, one of the interesting pieces of information here is the attorney’s statement that Lanigan was in the process of selling his interests in both The Dirty Truth and The Moan & Dove. While the Dirty Truth sale has been reported, I was not aware of The Moan & Dove information. The attorney did not really address Lanigan’s pending deal to purchase The Other Side Café in Boston, which undoubtedly was reflected in filings with the Commission.

I’ll report the Commission’s decision on the transfer of the license (which is safe to assume will be granted) and the state of the 2 a.m. license (which appears headed for a temporary reduction to 1 a.m.).

MR. SCALI: Tell us Mr. Lanigan’s experience.

MS. SEYMOUR: Mr. Lanigan has some pretty extensive experience in the business. He has over 10 years experience in the direct ownership and management of different locations. Just by way of reference, a couple of those locations include the Moon and Dove in Amherst, Mass. as well as The Dirty Truth in Northampton, Mass. By way of background, just so that the Commission sort of gets a sense of what’s been happening with this deal, Mr. Lanigan has actually been trying to acquire this location for over a year now. He came to our office over a year ago. There was actually a purchase and sale agreement for the property directly with the prior business owner. Unfortunately, the economic climate being what it was, the prior business owner has actually filed bankruptcy. So we’re now before you as potential purchasers via a bankruptcy sale. Prior to that Mr. Lanigan actually moved into Cambridge. He’s excited to come here and make his personal home here as well as his business home. In the meantime — so this all goes to his experience — during the course of the past year, he actually got brought into a location on Newbury Street on Boston called The Other Side. They were in some serious need of overhauling management, and I think it’s a telltale sign to his experience that they were willing to take him on for whatever amount of time he was available to help them with that. So in terms of his experience, in addition to his actual ownership of a couple of other places, he has a really good reputation in the industry.

MR. SCALI: Is he going to be at the Amherst location and the other locations too, or just this location?

MS. SEYMOUR: When this is all done, there are sales pending on those. So he’s going to be 100 percent dedicated to Cambridge.

MR. SCALI: Is the concept of the ones in Amherst and the other locations the same as this concept.

MS. SEYMOUR: They’re similar concepts. I mean, it’s really intended to be your local place, American food, reasonably priced. I believe that some sample menus were submitted with the application to give you an idea of what we’re looking at. The average check price per person including food and drink would be about $30, which isn’t too bad considering some of other things out there. But as I said, that would be food and beverage.

MR. SCALI: Percentage of alcohol to food service?

MS. SEYMOUR: Do you have those numbers? Or based on your other locations, those numbers?

MR. LANIGAN: Probably about 50-50.

MR. SCALI: So it will be a barroom?

MR. LANIGAN: It will be a restaurant with liquor service.

MS. SEYMOUR: In terms of the restaurant aspect, the full menu will be served until midnight every single night, and then a later night menu from midnight to close will be offered that will just be paired down. The regular menu is pretty extensive if you look at it, so in terms of keeping someone in the kitchen that can service whatever comes in at that point. Food will be available. It will be based off of the full regular menu. Just a couple of the more cumbersome things will be taken off of that.

MR. SCALI: The reason why I ask you that question is because our policy is that alcohol should be an accessory to the food. So if you had said 51 percent food that would have been a better answer.

MR. LANIGAN: It’s hard to predict.

MS. SEYMOUR: We like to be honest. How’s that?

MR. SCALI: We have grandfathered so-called barrooms in that have been operating for years beforehand, but little by little, we havebeen eliminating barrooms in Cambridge. So we don’t allow barrooms per se.

MR. LANIGAN: I know my chef is hoping for 60 or 65.

MR. SCALI: Okay.

MS. SEYMOUR: And again, there is a copy of the menu in there. I do think it’s important to emphasize the fact of the commitment to serving that food. Again, the full menu until midnight as well as a substantial late night menu from midnight to close.

MR. SCALI: We’re you the top bidder at the auction; is that what it was?

MS. SEYMOUR: That is correct. It was an interesting event. There’s no change in –

MR. SCALI: Can you tell us what the price was at the auction?

MS. SEYMOUR: Yes, absolutely. Again, as part of the application materials it is disclosed. The purchase price ended up being a total of $320,545.36. That includes the liquor license, the equipment — which frankly, there’s only so much value to that — the furniture and fixtures. He’s then investing $50,000 into renovating the premises so some of that will come into play, and then the goodwill. We sort of have our break down in the application of what that is. About a hundred of that was allocated to the license. The unique thing about this scenario is that — and as an attorney who does this all the time, we always get excited for people with Mr. Lanigan’s experience, but then we’re always cautious in these circumstances because typically you’d have a purchase and sale and it would be contingent on getting approvals and all that great stuff. This particular bankruptcy sale, that was not the deal. It’s closed. The 320 is done.

MR. SCALI: So whether you get permission from us or not makes no difference?

MS. SEYMOUR: Whether or not I do, Whether or not Mr. Lanigan does, he could be –

MR. SCALI: You’re stuck with the license, is that the idea?

MS. SEYMOUR: Right, he could be stuck with it whether or not, but that was — Again, I raise that for the sheer fact of pointing out Mr. Lanigan’s commitment to Cambridge. Again, he moved here, he wants this business. He’s been trying to get it for a year, and he’s committed. He feels that it’s a great location, a great neighborhood, and he wants to enhance that factor.

MR. SCALI: It’s been a troublesome location over the years. I think that’s our main concern.

MS. SEYMOUR: The prior operation, no question.

MR. SCALI: And there are neighbors that live very close by right next door. I can point out a couple of people who have called a number of times over the years. So I’m just wondering, how have you dealt with the abutters and neighbors that live in the building particularly right behind?

MS. SEYMOUR: In addition to — the fact that this has been a troublesome location is one of the reasons that someone like Mr. Lanigan sees opportunity. So part of what Mr. Lanigan did and he did this on his own, our office wasn’t actually involved in it at all, was — you know, our office sent out the notice to abutters that’s required by the Commission, but in addition to that Mr. Lanigan sent out a letter introducing himself. In fact, yesterday he had anyone who was interested come in, sit down, meet with him. He wanted to introduce himself, get some feedback. Obviously, he knows the prior operation was problematic but he was interested in hearing some of the specific concerns, and then really to reassure the neighbors that his intent is an entirely different one, and his goal is a different one as again I think is evidenced by his reputation in his other operations. So there were I think 10 people attended the meeting yesterday. He got some good feedback. There were some concerns raised. Mr. Lanigan felt that after talking to them that they definitely felt better about having met him and sort of his responses, and what his view is for what’s going to go on at that location.

MR. SCALI: What happens at 1:00 a.m. in the morning when people come out of your establishment?

MR. LANIGAN: My doorman goes outside and makes sure that everyone sort of disperses the area. It seems like the problem was a lot of people hanging out sometimes until three or four in the morning. I don’t think that the prior establishment really did anything to prevent that or to stop that. It’s my hope that our guys will be there seven nights a week. We’ll be outside making sure the people are not only getting out of there, but being quiet.

MR. SCALI: Is there parking — there’s no parking in that building; right? Do you have an agreement with Mr. Schlessinger for the lease?

MR. LANIGAN: Yeah. I have a spot and there’s a spot that I’m trying to rent across the street.

MR. SCALI: I’m talking about the actual building itself. Do you have a lease with the landlord?

MS. SEYMOUR: With the landlord, absolutely, yes. That was also part of the bankruptcy proceeding; that the lease was all tied into it. Again, copies of those are submitted with this application but that was part of the bankruptcy requirement was an assignment of the lease.

MR. TURNER: Mr. Chair.

MR. SCALI: Deputy Chief.

MR. TURNER: Through to the Applicant, are there any plans on renovations?

MS. SEYMOUR: Yes. There are cosmetic upgrades planned. So there will be some painting. Are you upgrading anything with the bathrooms?

MR. LANIGAN: Fixtures. It’s mostly woodwork and furniture painting. Nothing structural.

MS. SEYMOUR: Mostly furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

MR. LANIGAN: The structure will remain as it is.

MS. SEYMOUR: A little facelift.

MR. HAAS: No questions.

MR. SCALI: Anybody from the public want to be heard? I knew there were some neighbors here. Come forward please, if you would.

MR. ****: My name is ****. I live at ****. I’m about three houses down from the intersection of Hampshire Street and Windsor. I lived at that address when it was the Windsor Tap, and when it transferred hands to the B-Side, and the B-Side made the same promises that it’s going to be a restaurant, and we’re going to have a different clientele in there. Well, yuppies get drunk just like anybody else. We had problems with people parking in front of the driveway, debris thrown in the bushes, loud talking at 2:00 a.m. in the morning. I don’t see how the owner can prevent this no matter how much experience he has. So we’d — One thing we definitely don’t want to see is 2:00 license on Friday and Saturday night. I do work on Saturdays. I do not want to be woken up at 2:30 in the morning by this. I do not need them urinating in the yard anymore. Those are my main complaints about this. I don’t think there’s any need to have a 2:00 license. We’re not happy about a 1:00 license, but a 2:00 license in a residential area like it is, I mean there’s no other businesses there that stay open that late. Everything is closed up by 6:00. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a need for a 2:00 license for sure. Thank you.

MR. ****: I’m Dennis ****. I live at **** beside Joe. All the things he — I reiterate. One of the main problems is parking. If you go out on a Friday or Saturday at like 4:00 in the afternoon, 5:00 in the afternoon, you come back and this bar is full. You can’t find a spot. You’ve got to go within two blocks to find a spot. It’s ridiculous. Numerous times I’ve caught people coming out of the bar throwing their cups and glasses in my hedges. They’re in my driveway and beside my house urinating, men and women. I’m saying, “What the hell are you doing?” They’re saying, “Well, it’s too crowded in the bar. We got to come out here. Come on, Dude.” I say, “Just listen, go before I call the cops.” It gets to be a real hassle, and at 1:00, their doorman can’t do anything about these people. They’re going in drunk, they’re coming out drunk. You see them get out of the cars, they’re yelling, screaming. It’s ridiculous. That all I’ve got to say. Thank you.

MS. ****: I’m Stella ****. I live at ****. I’d like to reiterate everything they’re already said. I’d also like to say that as an abutter, I did not receive any notice from Mr. Landrigan about this meeting, nor did anyone else who lives in my house. And there were also abutters who did not receive any notice about this meeting tonight that I spoke to on my way here.

MR. SCALI: Does your property touch the property of this?

MS. ****: No. We’re on the opposite side of Hampshire Street.

MR. SCALI: They wouldn’t be required to notify people across the street. It’s only those that are next to you and behind.

MS. ****: Okay, I’m across the street. We weren’t notified. I just want to say we’ve had the same issues numerous times. I’m probably one of the people who has called the police on this. I start work at 3:00 in the morning; I don’t need the noise that comes out of that bar when they close. The slamming doors, the yelling, the arguing, the fighting, the hedges, again, the trash, the debris, everything else. I, for one, was glad to see the B-Side close. I lived there when it was the Windsor Tap. We never had any issues with that. It was a neighborhood bar that people walked to. Now, with the congestion that’s already there with parking, and we have people driving from all over to go there, it’s really an issue. And I’m tired of getting people to stop parking in my driveway, blocking my driveway, all of the above. Like I said, I was glad to see it close and I wouldn’t — I’d be happy if this didn’t open.

MR. SCALI: Thank you very much. Anybody else?

MR. ****: I’m Scott **** at ****, right across the street actually from the B-Side.

MR. SCALI: At ****?

MR. ****: ****, yeah, caddy corner and sort of facing it. I’m actually in an awkward position here because I know a lot of people involved in the bar. I’m also a musician and spend a lot of time in clubs and stuff. The thing is, let’s see, I’ve been living there for like 13 years. I remember the Windsor Tap. I guess my problem is with the 2:00 license, and it’s mostly that there’s a migration — or there used to be a migration of last-call people coming into the neighborhood. I believe the Windsor Tap used to be a 2:00 closing also. So other than that, I would say I’m kind of in the middle as far as having a bar in the neighborhood, you know, it’s residential. But at the same time, I’ve gone to the B-Side many times. So I don’t know. I just wanted to put my two cents in.

MR. SCALI: Thank you very much, Mr. ****l. Yes.

MR. ****: My name is ****, *****.

MR. SCALI: What’s your address?

MR. ****: *******

MR. SCALI: So you’re a little bit down the street.

MR. ****: I’m a few blocks from there. I drive around because I have to pick up my son from his parties and things, and I know well the B-Side and the noise, and the traffic patterns of people when they come out of the bar and when they try to get home and they don’t know which one is Windsor Street and which one is Hampshire. I like the idea of having a bar nearby. I don’t like the idea at all that it’s open until 2:00 in the morning. I don’t know how much that will impact the business given that there are no other commercial buildings or businesses around at that time of the day open. It’s not Central Square, it’s not Newbury Street. I don’t see the reason why they should be open until 2:00. So I will oppose that the license is granted to be open until 2:00 in the morning.

MS. SEYMOUR: Just a couple of responses. I don’t think that anything that neighbors have said this evening are a surprise to Mr. Lanigan. As I said, he is well aware of the operation of the prior business owner. It sounds as though the prior business owner was far more problematic than whoever may have been there prior to him.

MR. SCALI: The Windsor Tap had their issues too. Those that mentioned that Windsor Tap was good, they haven’t been going back far enough.

MS. SEYMOUR: Let me just say this, and this is without intending to be disparaging to the operator. If the prior operator knew how to run a good successful business, he would not have been in the position that he was in to be forced to sell his business via bankruptcy. I think that that’s probably further testament to the fact that everything the neighbors have said is accurate in terms of the crowds that were gathering there. When we talk about — there are a couple of things that are here that concern me as someone who also does disciplinary hearings. If there is an owner and management that are properly trained, and more importantly are properly training their staff as Mr. Lanigan does, there should not be anyone leaving the premises with any cup or bottles to be throwing it in anyone’s yard. So that’s a big concern, and quite frankly, that should have been an easy fix for a prior operator. The over service is obviously what leads to a lot of the other issues that we’re talking about, whether it’s urinating in someone’s yard, or sort of loitering around.
What I will say, and I know because it’s a residential community and they’ve lived with what they’ve had to live with as long as they’ve had to live with it. The two other establishments that we have been referencing are in fact located in residential neighborhoods. This is someone who has experience dealing with the neighbors, dealing with making sure that people are not leaving intoxicated, people are leaving with items, people are not loitering around. I guess I would just say, and Mr. Lanigan has emphasized this to me several times, the most important thing for him is that there would be an open line of communication with the neighbors. I’m sure based on the fact that these folks took their time to come out tonight, that they did try to express those things to a prior operator, and I’m sorry that they weren’t heard. In terms of the closing time and the fact that this is a residential neighborhood, those are all things that this operator certainly has experience with. I guess what I would just suggest to the Board is that particularly in this economic climate, I’m not going to tell you that changing the hours from what they previously were is what this client is looking for.

MR. SCALI: I was going to ask you how married you are to a 2:00 a.m. closing.

MR. LANIGAN: I would like to — obviously I bought the place with that intention of keeping it. I would be willing to concede a couple of things. I can say that in Northampton I have a 2:00 license but you can’t get in after 1:00, so it stops the migration from Central Square. You don’t have the crowds of people walking down the street at 1:15 who have already had six or seven drinks coming into the place.

MR. SCALI: We’ve had that problem before here, and what ends up happening is that people end up being locked in as opposed to people not being able to get in. Once you’re in then people are letting other people in and it hasn’t worked here, that concept.

MR. LANIGAN: It works very well out there. I’d ask that you give me an opportunity at the 2:00 a.m. to see how it goes, and we can revisit it in six months or a year.

MS. SEYMOUR: Or if there’s a problem before. I mean the Board always has the opportunity for a disciplinary hearing and calling someone in.

MR. SCALI: I will tell you that B-Side promised us an awful lot of things and they did not come forward with that. They did not comply. So when I asked you about the food versus the alcohol — because I was hoping you were going to say we’re going to be a restaurant. But 50-50 to me means you’re a barroom. I personally have a problem with that concept.

MR. LANIGAN: Are you talking about a percentage of gross revenue or 50 percent of just sales. It’s too very different things, and I would say that —

MR. SCALI: I don’t think it makes a difference either way.

MR. LANIGAN: I think it does.

MR. SCALI: If you tell me you’re a restaurant serving food and people can get a glass of wine with their food, that to me is — alcohol is an accessory to your food. If you tell me you’re going to sell 50 percent alcohol, you’re a barroom. So I have a problem with that.

MS. SEYMOUR: With respect Mr. Chairman, I would challenge you to find any barroom in this city or any of the surrounding cities that is a barroom as you’ve described it, but is serving a full menu until midnight, and then a substantial menu from midnight to closing. I think that’s a really important factor.
This Board and the community should hold any applicant, any licensee to that. It is difficult because in a lot of these situations someone is coming in and sort of stepping into the sins of the prior operator. I wish that more people were familiar with Mr. Lanigan’s operations because I think that the perspective would be very different. I know that we’re not, and all we can do is come in and talk about that. You know, again, the goal here is to maintain a very open line of communication with the neighborhood and to be held accountable for the promises and the statements that are being made based on a good record of that.

MR. SCALI: I wish I was more familiar with your Amherst and Northampton operations because it sounds like we’d probably have a lot of information, more information about them as to how you’d operator here. Maybe that’s something we can get from you in terms of how your operation works.

MS. SEYMOUR: Or maybe — I mean, I don’t know, to the extent that the Board has any relationship with the Boards in those locations to call and see.

MR. SCALI: Maybe you have a great track record there. I don’t know. Have you had any disciplinary issues in Amherst or Northampton?

MR. LANIGAN: We had one. We had some shades, some curtains in the window that were not supposed to be there. I argued for them and I got spanked for a day.

MR. SCALI: We don’t allow shades in our windows either.

MR. LANIGAN: We just did it after closing because a lot of people that work there are female, and they were counting money out in the open, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with that. So we closed the curtains for an hour and then we reopened them for the rest of the night, but the police didn’t like that. So they’re gone.

MR. SCALI: No other disciplinary issues?


MR. SCALI: Questions?

MR. HAAS: I’d make two statements: One, I think using discipline as a means to correct situations is not something this Commission wants to get in the business of doing because it just doesn’t work well. We go through long arduous hearings and you clearly have a number of people that live in the neighborhood that are going to be watching your establishment very closely because they don’t want to have to go through the experience of the prior owners. Secondly, I would encourage you to think about possibly reversing your position about the trial period at 2:00, a trial period at 1:00. Then after six months come back and revisit to see if you demonstrate to the neighborhood that you can run a responsible business. I think because you’re going to have to get over the history. It’s just unfortunate but that’s what you’re really going to need to do.
It would seem to me that as a good-faith gesture to the neighborhood, demonstrate to the neighborhood that you can run a business that’s going to be respectful the fact that you’re in a residential neighborhood. Then come back in six months after you’ve had that track record, and then reapply for a 2:00 opening. It’s just a suggestion I would make to consider.

MR. SCALI: And you actually would not lose the 2:00 a.m., because if you purchased a 2:00 a.m., you can always bank that 2:00 a.m. Even if you sold it in the future, or come back in six months and apply, you wouldn’t lose that. We don’t get rid of it because you bought that portion of it. You just wouldn’t be able to use it until you came back to us.

MR. LANIGAN: It seems like the neighborhood is very very opposed to 2:00 a.m. So no matter how well we did our job, it would be unlikely to ever be granted back.

MR. SCALI: If you did a great job and came in showed that you did a great job with a 1:00 a.m., maybe they’d say, well we’ll give them a try. I don’t know. It’s just an idea the Commissioner suggested.

MR. HAAS: I think you’re right. I think a lot of the situation or the experiences with the B-Side, you can easily correct. And you have to demonstrate that if you do have certain problems that you can clamp it down very quickly. I think if you can do that then I think it’s not a stretch to say, well, if you’re open to 1:00, you can now open to 2:00, and you’re not going to experience any significant changes in terms of your operation. So again, I would just offer that as a suggestion for you to consider. I’m not prepared to vote at this point. I’d recommend taking it under advisement at this point, but I’d ask you to consider that.

MS. SEYMOUR: I think that you understood Mr. Lanigan, the point that he was making.

MR. HAAS: I do.

MR. SCALI: I would also suggest if you wish to rework your menu, perhaps put a more substantial menu so that you are more food oriented. That would be what my recommendation would be. We’re not scheduled to vote until —

MR. LANIGAN: April 2.

MR. SCALI: April 2, so you’ve got some weeks to see what you can do.

MR. LANIGAN: The next hearing is March 24.

MR. HAAS: One last question, Mr. Chair.

MR. SCALI: Deputy Chief.

MR. TURNER: What is your intent — I didn’t notice it on your application — when Monday is a holiday? Are you still intending to close at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday?

MS. SEYMOUR: No. Then it would be the 2:00 a.m., which we understand was how it was previously done.

MR. SCALI: When Monday is a holiday it would be 2:00 a.m.

MR. TURNER: It’s not in the application. Okay, thank you.

MS. SEYMOUR: Again, that’s assuming there are people who want to be here until that time. Mr. Lanigan is going to be there 24/7 so his intent would not be to be there any longer than the demand for it was required.

MR. SCALI: I guess, you know, just to make sure you understand this has had a very long problematic history in this location. It’s not that we distrust you or think you’re not telling us the truth, it’s that people have been burned before in this neighborhood. So you have to understand that we’re just as concerned as the neighbors are.

MS. SEYMOUR: We understand that. I guess we would just ask that to the extent that the Commission finds it appropriate to call some of the other Boards, I think that would be great.

MR. SCALI: I think that’s a good idea.

MS. SEYMOUR: And to the extent that again, particularly in this economic climate, if there’s a way for there to be some sort of meet in the middle during this prove yourself period in terms of the closing hour that would be appreciated. Maybe it’s not the 2:00 a.m. for the Thursday, Friday, Saturday that it used to be. Pick one of the days, or somewhere in the middle. That could help. The Chairman mentioned banking the 2:00 a.m. for future sales. Mr. Lanigan’s goal here, again, as I stated many times is to be here and live here, and be part of the community. So the goal here isn’t sort of just to come in and flip it and make it all good, and then get someone else in. That’s not what’s happening here.

MR. SCALI: I understand.

MR. HAAS: We’re not suggesting that you’re going to forced to stay at the 1:00 a.m. closing. I think this body would be willing to entertain, after you demonstrated that you’re a running responsible business, to reconsider that after a period of time, whether it be six months, or whatever.

MR. LANIGAN: I think that’s reasonable.

MR. SCALI: How busy is our March 24 hearing?

MS. LINT: Not to bad.

MR. SCALI: Would the Commissioners be willing to continue it until March 24? I guess it would give you a couple of weeks to re-present or to reconsider some of your positions and present some information to Mrs. Lint for us with regards to the closing hour, the menu.

MR. LANIGAN: I can bring a lot of folks from the community or my direct abutters out there to speak on our behalf as far as our relationship with the neighbors.

MR. SCALI: I’m not asking you to bring tons of people in to support you; that’s not my goal. My goal really is more to come into compliance with what we deem would be an appropriate use for that neighborhood, I guess is what we’re trying to convey to you.
MS. SEYMOUR: Is it that you want us to appear again, or do you want us just to submit the information to Mrs. Lint?

MR. SCALI: I think if you can submit it beforehand, it will give Mrs. Lint an opportunity to call Amherst and Northampton to find out what their opinion is of your operations, and then to appear before us on the 24th of March, again with a revised plan, if you want to. If you don’t want to and you want us to vote on what you have now, we’ll do that too. I think Mrs. Lint can let the neighbors know that they’re entitled then to come back in and hear what you suggest would be your alternate plan, I guess.
Motion then to continue to March 24.

MR. HAAS: Motion.

MR. HAAS: Seconded.

MR. SCALI: All in favor?

MR. HAAS: Aye.


MR. SCALI: All right. See you on March 24.

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More Fear of Blue Moon (by MillerCoors!) From the Brewers Association…

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Brewers Association founder and president Charlie Papazian is a passionate advocate for the small brewers his organization represents. He is also a prolific writer, having penned several books and magazine articles. Papazian also takes part in a new form of journalism/writing, writing a column on beer for Launched in five cities, including Papazian’s nearby Denver, the is not associated with any particular news organization and the content is left to respective topic experts.

I’ve only recently started noting this column but one recent post caught my attention. Papazian generally writes about topics of interest to his organization and small brewers, a fair amount of industry talk actually. His most recent topic, “Blue Moon by MillerCoors ramps up marketing dollars,? was ostensibly about the recent news that MillerCoors plans to extend the marketing for the beer to the medium of television, a first for the carefully managed brand.

But a few throw-away lines in the lede and the rest of the article show how entrenched the association’s fear of Blue Moon is.

Blue Moon by MillerCoors is considered by many beer drinkers as a craft beer made by a small brewery. In actuality it’s a big brewer’s specialty brand that has enjoyed successful sales across the United States.


It will be interesting to watch whether MillerCoors Blue Moon can convince craft beer drinkers to switch from their local beers to theirs. Can advertising and marketing engage craft beer drinkers?

The unusual thing with these lines, and the entire tone of the Examiner piece and other similar pronouncements from the Brewers Association, is how they perceive Blue Moon as an interloper in the craft beer world as opposed to a brand that has actually made positive contributions to advancements in American beer culture. The Brewers Association, and similarly minded beer enthusiasts and craft brewers, appears to think that Blue Moon is a late-to-the-party attempt by a big brewer to co-opt the craft brewers’ mojo. In reality, the Blue Moon brand, as differentiated from the vast majority of craft-style beers from Anheuser-Busch and Miller, has actually been a very positive and pioneering force in the promotion of better beer in America. The truth is that there are few individual craft brands that have done as much as the Blue Moon Belgian White for changing the way average drinkers think about the pints in front of them.

I’ve been writing about The Curious Case of Blue Moon and how craft brewers have responded to it for several years. In an early BeerAdvocate column, I wrote:

And here starts the craft beer lover’s political problem. Should it matter that Blue Moon is brewed by America’s third largest brewery, one that produces more than 23-million barrels of beer per year? Countless dedicated craft beer drinkers have seen a Blue Moon tap handle, ordered and enjoyed the brand, only to later discover the Coors connection. While they certainly have an understandable objection about truth in labeling (a complaint they can also lodge with many contract-brewed craft brands), it doesn’t change the fact they probably liked the beer when they tasted it blind to beer politics. In the end, shouldn’t the question always be, is the beer any good?

I think the point remains a strong one. And it leads to my other criticisms and comments:

In dismissing Blue Moon as another big brewery poseur brand, contrarian beer lovers miss two larger points. First, in reporting the achievements of American craft brewers, the Brewers Association doesn’t include Blue Moon and its double-digit growth volume. While Blue Moon may not qualify for membership in the ‘craft beer’ club, it’s certainly a charter member of the ‘better beer’ segment. When added to the tally sheet, the Blue Moon brand’s explosive growth is perhaps the best evidence of a sea change in the American palate.

The second point is perhaps the least appreciated. In contrast to the sometimes-juvenile efforts of America’s two largest breweries, Coors has long treated the Blue Moon brand in a remarkably innovative manner: with respect. Blue Moon’s artistic point-of-sale materials, refusal to run television ads, and its dedication to the ritual of serving the luminous wheat beer in proper, shapely glassware speaks to the gentle, considered treatment of this brand. In comparison, one need only look at the absurd tap handles for Anheuser-Busch’s own line of seasonal draft beers to get the sneaking suspicion the brewing giant is trying to make craft beer look like a bunch of clowns.

I also think that the Brewers Association should stick to defining ‘craft brewer,’ which it claims to only do so for internal, data purposes, and quit trying to define ‘craft beer.’ This subject too has been discussed several times before and members of the Brewers Association’s staff have privately admitted error in previous uses of the ‘craft beer’ moniker, which no longer appears as a definition on its site. I’ve adopted the BeerAdvocate definition of craft beer, which is “beer brewed in limited quantities often using traditional methods.? Under this definition, I think Blue Moon clearly qualifies as a craft beer.

I can certainly appreciate how craft brewers, especially certain larger producers, might be concerned over competing with a macro-brewery with a powerhouse brand, especially one that apparently now plans to release specialty products, including a 9-percent Grand Cru edition. But I think the Brewers Association needs to rethink its approach to attacking brands such as Blue Moon, especially as the craft brewing industry grows. And if there is such antipathy towards these big brewers, perhaps it is time for the Brewers Association to go public with its privately stated desire to remove the larger brewers from sponsorship and distribution aid for the group’s signature money-making event, the Great American Beer Festival. With the upcoming Craft Brewers Conference in Boston, I remain interested in seeing whether the association’s membership takes some moments to let the staff know how they privately feel about these issues.

EDIT: A commenter noted another Papazian post that I was just reading as well, relating to a clip from the upcoming “Beer Wars” documentary. I thought I’d include that here for your review. I’m hoping that the film itself doesn’t just present the anti-Blue Moon side but also represents the many craft brewers who don’t view Blue Moon and Coors negatively.

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A Busy Month, Twitter, and Craft Beer in Florida…

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So March has by far been the busiest month for original content that this website has seen, especially since transitioning to a blog/wordpress format a little over two years ago. Part of this has been due to a little downtime on my part and another part, I have to admit, has been related to an increase in traffic driven by tie-ins with Twitter and Facebook. For those in the know and care, my Twitter page is available for updates, both to this page and also occasionally unique to Twitter itself. Tomorrow I’m going to head up to Tampa to visit a few places and to try the new Cigar City lineup at the Oldsmar Taphouse and while there, despite my criticisms in the past, I’m going to try and use Twitter to post some updates. Who knows, I may even try to include some photos. So feel free to sign up for the Twitter alerts (I still hate saying tweets/tweeks/twits) or just follow this on your RSS feed or occasional drop-in.

UPDATE: Yeah, while attending the Cigar City event I couldn’t bring myself to stop interesting conversations or ignore my dad, pull out my phone, and type away on Twitter. I think that confirms the range of Twitter that I’m comfortable with…

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Atlantic Brewing Company To Buy Bar Harbor Brewing Company…

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Although the deal isn’t quite inked, the Atlantic Brewing Company of Bar Harbor, Maine, maker of the excellent Coal Porter and Brother Adam’s Bragget, is set to buy its rival, the Bar Harbor Brewing Company. A little less than a year ago, an out-of-state entrepreneur bought Bar Harbor from its founders, Tod and Suzi Foster. At the time I wrote of the back story:

The husband and wife owners of one of Maine’s oldest microbreweries, the Bar Harbor Brewing Company, recently announced their plans to sell their business to a Florida-based advertising executive. The sale of the brewery, which produces the award-winning Cadillac Mountain Stout and Thunder Hole Ale beers, is expected to close in early 2008. The new owner, Evan Contorakes, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ronin Advertising Group of Miami, Florida, and also owns the Parkside Restaurant in Bar Harbor. Tod and Suzi Foster, present owners of the brewery, will retain a consulting role for one year following the sale in order to aid in the transition of the brewery.

The Fosters founded Bar Harbor Brewing in 1990 from the basement of their area home. While living in California, the couple sat front row center for the early days of the microbrewing movement. Tod took up homebrewing while a student at UC-Santa Barbara and the Fosters traveled throughout the state visiting new breweries as they opened. After moving to Suzi’s hometown of Bar Harbor, the couple would talk about Tod’s idea for opening his own brewery. He knew Bar Harbor had a huge tourist industry and that anything with the town’s name stenciled on it sold quickly as souvenirs. He discussed the idea with his wife so often that one day Suzi just looked at him and asked him whether he was actually going to do anything about it.

From the beginning, Tod knew that he wanted to run a very small operation, called a cottage brewery, where he would handle the brewing and Suzi would run the business. On a return trip to California, the Fosters met with several brewery and pub owners to get a sense of what they’d need to accomplish their goal. The couple almost decided against opening their own place after repeatedly being told they would need nearly $400,000 of startup capital to succeed. After securing a small two-barrel Pierre Rajotte brewing system, Tod created the first batches of his flagship Thunder Hole Ale. When the beer proved popular, the Fosters eventually moved from their cramped, 150-square foot basement a new house on two and a half acres a few miles outside of town. The new owner plans to move the brewery, which presently covers 850-square feet of the Foster’s basement, to a store front in downtown Bar Harbor. The new space will include the brewing facilities and a tasting room for tourists.

Comments by Contorakes to the local newspapers show that he has great plans for the little brewery. While the Fosters had trouble maintaining the brewery’s 325 barrel production, Contorakes plans to catch up with local demand and then expand the brand “up and down the East Coast,? as he told the Mount Desert Islander. Contorakes’s bold plans also include taking the small, little known brand to a national audience. “I guarantee there’s a national pipeline we could put this into,? he told the local newspaper. “People around the country are always looking for these microbrews.? To achieve these goals, Contorakes says that he will likely contract with a larger brewer for off-site production of Bar Harbor Brewing’s brands.

Contorakes opened a store in downtown Bar Harbor but little was heard from the brands since that time. Through the purchase, Atlantic’s owner and founder Doug Mafucci will be able to consolidate the island’s two leading brewing operations and bring under one roof the often times confusing set of labels held between them. Now Atlantic’s Bar Harbor Real Ale and Blueberry will be alongside Bar Harbor’s True Blue Blueberry. Beer geeks anxiously await word of what will become of one of New England’s most celebrated beers, the Cadillac Mountain Stout. I haven’t had the beer since the changeover and don’t know if it is still being brewed by the old partial-extract method, but I hope the operation’s slight 260 barrels of production will remain true to Tod’s early vision.

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The Expanding Reach of Craft Beer: The Florida Gulf Coast Edition…

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My family has vacationed on the Gulf Coast of Florida near Sarasota, off and on for about two decades. While I spent most of that time as a kid here, in recent years I’ve enjoyed not only the weather but also observing the changing face of beer in Florida. When I first started buying beer in Florida a decade ago, craft beer was nearly impossible to find. In the area from Tampa to Sarasota, your options were pretty limited. In Tampa, you could visit the now-defunct Ybor City Brewing Company, a haphazard operation set into a hundred year old cigar factory that was sinking into the ground (or at least looked like it). You could also try the solid beers at the old Tampa Bay Brewing Company location in Ybor City or for take away you could visit the tiny but packed operation at Beers of the World. Beyond that, you could head across the bay to the gulf side and visit Dunedin, which is always a pleasant trip. In Sarasota, you were pretty much limited to the entirely average Sarasota Brewing Company. In terms of buying beer for home, that’s where you learned the true tradition of the Florida beer market. You had a choice of Bud, Bud Light, Natural Light, or, if you were lucky, Amber Bock. After a few years of looking around, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d be drinking a lot of sickly sweet Amber Bock and gin and tonics when I visited.

Fast forward a decade and things have changed considerably. In the last three years especially, a small number of independent wholesalers has helped break Anheuser-Busch’s deathgrip on beer distribution in the state. Well-regarded beers from Europe and American craft brewers started showing up on tap in a handful of bars and then in the grocery and package stores. In terms of take away beer, it’s still a fight down here. The opening of a Whole Foods grocery store in Sarasota has been a big boon for the area and it’s where I inevitably buy fresh Full Sail and other craft brands for prices far less than I can get back in Boston. And what’s up with finding both Allagash and Brooklyn for a few bucks less than in their nearby markets (Brooklyn 1 for $7 is a steal anywhere)?

So now on a trip to Florida, I know I can head to the excellent and “rustic” Cock & Bull Pub in Sarasota for some rarer offerings, track down Saint Somewhere Belgian-style bottles, get much bally-hooed Bell’s special releases for pennies on the dollar at the excellent Waterfront Restaurant on Anna Maria Island, or even find Yuengling sixers for less than Bud costs (take that volume warriors!). I’m also hoping to head up to Tampa later in the week to visit a new beer bar (Oldsmar Taphouse) and to try a few offerings from the recently opened Cigar City Brewing Company. Florida’s Gulf Coast is by no means a craft beer mecca but its rise shows just how deep into “enemy territory” the movement has penetrated. These are some of the things I’ll be considering as I watch the sun set over my glass of Saison Athene (from Saint Somewhere)…

P.S. If you visit the Beer Monster package store in Bradenton, be wary: the owner accosted me when I took out my phone to check the time, saying “You can’t take pictures in here, you can’t send out my prices.” He then proceeded to follow me around his half package store/half Salvation Army used furniture depo for twenty minutes…

The sketchy joints we visit in the name of good beer…I suppose the name should have been a tip-off.

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