WOBURN - The City Council wants Lord Hobo Brewing Company to demonstrate that an outdoor dining area won't cause significant noise disruptions around the Draper Street business.
During a gathering in City Hall earlier this week, the aldermen cited no major objections to East Woburn brewer's request to modify its parking lot configurations, which are dictated under the terms of a special permit issued in 2015.
However, a handful of the city officials, such as Ward 5 Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen and Ward 2's Richard Gately, made clear they do have major concerns about the proposed construction of a 90-by-15 foot patio along the frontage of Lord Hobo's headquarters at 5 Draper St.
Of particular concern is the potential for noise from that gathering space, which may reportedly have seating for as many as 107 restaurant patrons, to carry to the nearby residential neighborhood situated by Tremont Street.
"We can talk about the parking and all of that forever. I'm quite sure we can eventually work something out," said Mercer-Bruen of the requested special permit modifications. "But [the noise from that patio] is a huge concern for me."
Ultimately, the City Council referred the petition to its Special Permits Committee. The public hearing was also continued until June 4.
Specifically, the aldermen are being asked to allow Lord Hobo to expand its operations by providing 139 parking spaces. Without a special permit modification from the council, the petitioner will be required to furnish 173 spots.
According to local attorney Mark Salvati, representing the thriving beer-maker, 99 of those spaces are required for the restaurant. All of those customer spots will be provided at the brewery's main parking lot, which will have a total of 116 parking stalls. The leftover 17 onsite spaces will be combined with access to 23 satellite spaces at 8 Draper St. for employee parking associated with the main beer manufacturing business.
Lawless Chrysler, which owns the building at 8 Draper St., has no issues with Lord Hobo's plans, so long as the petitioner promises that no customers will be parking on its property.
Under local zoning ordinances, the petitioner is required to provide 69 parking stalls for the brewery operations.
Salvati this week assured the council that his client would not be offering live entertainment or playing music from the new outdoor space. He also pointed out that the patio, which is proposed for the front of the building, is situated a significant distance from residential abutters.
"They'll be no music or entertainment. It will just be people talking," said Savati, who likened the patio space to the BrickYard Restaurant's outdoor venue in Woburn Center. "I really don't see [noise] being a huge problem for that area. Frankly, we could have [our special permit] reviewed after a few months [to make sure it's not an issue]."
The construction of the new beer garden and the creation of a new indoor function area, technically an expansion of the beer manufacturer's foray last year into the restaurant industry, must ultimately be approved by Woburn's Planning Board — which in 2014 issued the original special permit for Lord Hobo's move to the city.
However, before the Planning Board will okay that proposal, the City Council is being asked to complete its deliberations over Lord Hobo's separate special permit for its parking facilities — which must be modified in order to added customer spaces for the expanded restaurant and beer taproom seating.
Though the Planning Board is the original special permit authority for the joint manufacturing and restaurant businesses, the City Council, which deals with associated special permits for overnight parking of commercial vehicles and other zoning code waivers, retains jurisdiction over any changes to those configurations.
Salvati explained that back in 2015, his client received permission to reduce by one-third the size of its required parking area for the brewing operation. That waiver was extended because Lord Hobo, though considered a manufacturer, only has a handful of employees managing the beer vats and working on associated bottling and product transport operations.
"In this particular instance, that space is just big open rooms with vats of beer in them. Nothing happens to them for days and days and days. So those 60 spaces are for 10 employees who run this operation," the local lawyer said this week.
In 2017, the aldermen further modified the parking plan to allow for the business to expand its cold storage warehouse into the old Bradco Supply building across the street from the main brewery. Under that approval, Lord Hobo was granted permission to rely upon a lease for 23 parking spaces with 8 Draper St. owner Lawless Chrysler, which itself uses the site's rear lot to stash new car inventory.
Because of that storage shift, the brewer freed up enough warehouse space to expand into the restaurant industry, and in June of 2018, the Planning Board approved Lord Hobo's opening of a fully-licensed restaurant with a beer taproom.
The newest petitions continue that expansion by requesting permission to open a new function hall and special event space, as well as the outdoor patio.