BURLINGTON - Legal Sea Foods recently earned conditional approval from the Planning Board for two special permits.

The longtime Burlington restaurant (of 37 years, in fact!) took some time off in 2020 to brainstorm a new business model for the property after being acquired by PPX Hospitality Brands in December of that year. The new ownership group and the restaurant believed it was a good time to temporarily close its Burlington Mall location, primarily due to the negative impacts COVID-19 took on the restaurant business, as a whole, not just Legal Sea Foods.

“Today, Legal Sea Foods is mobilizing its team in preparation of re-opening following a full renovation of the restaurant,” detailed local attorney Mark Vaughan, of Riemer & Braunstein, representing Legal Sea Foods. “The interior design will be refreshed and footprint slightly enlarged by 980 square-feet to accommodate an expansion to the enclosed patio dining space and a modest increase in seating.”

The patio renovation is aligned with the comprehensive vision for Burlington Mall, which included expanded dining options and restaurant seating capacity parameters set by the Planning Board and met by Legal Sea Foods in this proposal.

“The enclosed patio will provide year-round dining with an open-air concept, courtesy of removable window panels running along the sidewalk,” explained Vaughan.

The modernized aesthetic of the renderings shown during the virtual meeting certainly complemented the mall better than the previous iteration of the restaurant, but the landscaping plan left a lot to be desired for the planners. Specifically, the board wants trees rather than ground-level shrubs that barely stand over 1-ft. in height.

“I want to make the patio dining experience softer and more comfortable,” declared Planning Board Vice Chair William Gaffney.

The applicant initially admitted the sidewalk layout combined with the street and patio, which is 15-ft in depth, makes planting trees “not possible” under the proposed plan.

After some more back and forth, an agreement was reached for the board to approve the special permits but have the approval be contingent on a landscaping plan, with trees, that will ultimately be presented to Planning Board Chair Brenda Rappaport and Vice Chair Gaffney, both of whom will determine if it’s adequate. If they oppose what’s presented, then Legal Sea Foods will have to try again, or no patrons will be dining on the patio for the foreseeable future. The applicant is confident that won’t happen.

“We are really committed to this space,” said a representative from PPX Hospitality Brands. “If trees are going to make the difference, then we will come back with a design that includes trees.”

This appeased the board enough to unanimously approve the two special permits, contingent on the tree-filled landscaping plan.

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