BURLINGTON – Residents wondering why Burlington Beer Works hasn’t even started construction yet can at least now know the only thing tying up the process from moving forward is a building permit.
Burlington Beer Works was approved to locate in the former Outback location in the Burlington Crossroads on Cambridge Street over a year ago, yet no progress has been made at the site.
After approving a liquor license in April 2016 for Beer Works, the Board of Selectmen really want to know what is going on at the site as it remains vacant and untouched since Outback left in July 2015. The former Outback location is located in the Burlington Crossroads in between AAA and Marshalls. If the Burlington location is built, Beer Works will have seven locations in Massachusetts, including its flagship restaurant on Brookline Avenue in Boston, adjacent to Fenway Park.
As was the case with other companies in recent weeks, the Selectmen are looking to take action on Burlington Beer Works’ unused liquor license, so a revocation hearing was scheduled this week, which took place this past Monday night.
At the hearing, Town Administrator John Petrin stated that these liquor licenses bring in meals taxes so when these businesses aren’t operating and utilizing the licenses, there goes the revenue.
A representative from Slesar Bros. Brewing Company (restaurant group that owns Beer Works), attorney Paul Sporn, informed the Selectmen that a building permit application was submitted to the Building Department in early November, and will be in front of the Planning Board on Thursday, Jan. 4 for a final approval that will allow Beer Works to start construction immediately.
Sporn revealed there are some “administrative matters” that had to be resolved with the plans, primarily the appropriate size of the grease traps. That, however, is a Board of Health matter, and Sporn stated the Board of Health declared the updated grease trap plan is “going to be possible.”
Although Sporn did not have paperwork, he disclosed Burlington Building Inspector John Clancy can “confirm” all that Sporn said to the Selectmen.
“The best interests of the town are to allow the [Planning Board] to allow the building permit so we can commence construction in January, open in June 2018 and start earning revenue for the town of Burlington,” commented Sporn.
Petrin made mention that he talked to Clancy before the meeting and voiced that “things are in progress” as Beer Works awaits its final approvals from the Planning Board and Board of Health.
“It is important that progress continues,” advised Petrin.
Not a pleased board
As was detailed at the revocation hearing, the Selectmen have the option to either renew the license or revoke it before all the town’s licenses are officially renewed on Jan. 1, or grant and extension and continue the matter to a later meeting. The board felt it was prudent to conduct a revocation hearing so more specifics and a definitive timeline can be confirmed.
At this week’s revocation hearing, the Selectmen again expressed disappointment in what they felt were empty timelines and promises, all of which sounded similar to what they heard just a month ago.
“Last month, you said you would start construction immediately,” contended Selectman James Tigges. “Now, you are hoping to starting construction in January. Why should we continue to entertain this process?”
Selectman Vice Chair Joseph Morandi, maybe the most displeased with Beer Works, argued, “I have heard the same thing for [over a year] and since Outback left, 13 buildings in Burlington have been built. What is taking [Beer Works] so long?”
With Roche Bros. closed, and Busa Liquors and Bauer Hockey moving out of town, Burlington Crossroads in a state of change, and Selectman Michael Runyan touched on the pressing need for quick progress to be made.
“[Burlington Crossroads] is a park in flux, so it is important that Beer Works moves quickly. It will benefit everyone,” Selectman Runyan commented, who then expressed “leniency” towards Beer Works, signifying that he does not want to take the liquor license away from them.
Sporn retorted, touching on how Slesar Bros. Brew Company are “very appreciative” of the board’s patience.
“[Slesar Bros. Brewing Company] is a small family business and has never closed a restaurant it has opened, and we are very much looking forward to being a valuable member and contributor to the vibrant restaurant scene in Burlington. We hope to have the building permit issued by [Jan. 4],” pleaded Sporn, touching on the grease trap matter that has held up the project’s progression. “[Slesar Bros. Brewing Company] is not a national operation, so they have limited resources and are very sensitive to overspending.”
Anne Meyer, real estate counsel for EDENS, Inc. (property owner of Burlington Crossroads), spoke in support of Beer Works but also acknowledged the hope that this transition process from Outback would have been smoother and more time-effective.
“[EDENS], as landlord, share the frustration of the board. Nothing would make us happier than to see Beer Works open and paying rent. The process has been arduous and I would not say [Beer Works] is sitting on their hands, but it has not gone as quick as we would have liked,” remarked Meyer. “As landlord, we think Beer Works is a great operator for this location and the landlord’s best interests are to move this process along as quickly as possible.”
After confirming that the “last obstacle” in reaching the construction phase is to earn approval from the Planning Board for the building permit on Jan. 4, the Selectmen granted mercy to Beer Works and unanimously voted to continue this matter to its meeting on Jan. 22. This virtually means the fate of the liquor license likely rests on the action taken by the Planning Board of Jan. 4.