View Full Version : Boston NIMBYs' witch hunt against 24h life

08-13-2007, 12:55 AM
The article is primarily concerned with McDonald's, but a certain hostility toward late-night culture in general is easy to discern...

Not lovin' it
In the city that does sleep, McDonald's push for 24-hour drive-throughs makes neighborhoods restless
By Andreae Downs, Globe Correspondent | August 12, 2007

Boston's reputation for rolling up the sidewalks after dark looks like it's going to stick for a while.

But don't blame the Puritans.

A donnybrook over late-night licensing makes clear that the stumbling block isn't the blue laws. It's the neighbors.

At the center of the latest controversy is McDonald's Corp. In June, a lawyer filed applications with the city's Licensing Board to get 24-hour drive-throughs at roughly one-third of all McDonald's franchises in Boston.

The move fits the business strategy of a corporation that highlights restaurants "Open 'til midnight or later" on its website. But it ran headlong into the culture of neighborhoods where having late-night dining options is a lot less important than worries about traffic, trash, and rowdy behavior in the wee hours.

On top of that, neighborhood groups say the company hasn't been above board in seeking longer hours.

"I was in City Hall for something else and noticed this big pile of applications for McDonald's to go to 24-hour operations," including two in Allston and Brighton, said Paul Berkeley, president of the Allston Civic Association. "So I went to the hearing and heard the lawyer tell the Licensing Board that he had met with the community. I don't know which community he'd met with. He'd never met with us."

Most of the eight contested applications from a half-dozen owners have since been withdrawn, pending consultation with neighborhood groups, according to the lawyer, Steven Baddour. In the end, he said, "none of these will be 24-hour operations." Three of the applicants have been granted a limited extension of hours, but could lose the privilege any time the board hears of trouble.

Baddour, who is also a state senator from Methuen, said he expected to open the process with neighborhoods by making the filings, and that he and the owners had no intention of sneaking the applications through without plenty of community discussion.

"I was concerned with having a hearing date set first, and then we would reach out to the neighborhood," he said. "McDonald's wanted a decision during the summer, when people were out and about, and wanted to engage neighbors in the process -- by no means bypassing them."

Baddour said that as soon as he sensed resident opposition on an application, he pulled back the 24-hour request, and in most cases withdrew the application. "There's no hidden agenda there," he said. "As a senator, I understand that we have to sit down and talk to the neighborhoods."

McDonald's does have two 24-hour Boston drive-throughs, both approved within the last two years. Even so, many neighborhoods have been working hard in recent years to close late-night establishments. The old 24-hour roast beef restaurants, like Riley's in Allston and the one in Day Square in East Boston, are gone. "Twenty four-hour establishments became a problem for us because they became a problem for the police," said Licensing Board chairman Daniel Pokaski, a former legislator himself. Further, many restaurants in Boston are cheek by jowl with residences.

Even those that don't stay open 24 hours can be a problem, neighbors say. The McDonald's on Warren Street in Roxbury is open until midnight, and community organizer Michael Kozu says that fights and loitering occur often in the parking lot.

"If they are having difficulty keeping things under control during their current hours, they would have even more difficulty after midnight," said Kozu, whose Project RIGHT consists of more than 40 resident and tenant associations, community-based agencies, and churches.

The mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services regularly recommends against new 24-hour licenses, said spokeswoman Nikko Mendoza. "It's not that we don't want people to be able to get a late-night bite," she said. "But what people want to do after 2 a.m. usually isn't good."

Baddour said that the city needs more late-night spots for working stiffs coming off shifts or commuting in for early-morning duty, places where people can have a "good cup of coffee and a bite to eat."

He said that most of these would-be diners are folks who'd prefer not to leave their cars, but still want a quick snack.

The wee hours are increasingly important to the company, which partly attributed an increase in July sales to late-night and early-morning customers.

"More and more, as life and business become 24-7, consumers are seeking quality meals at all times of the day," said Steve Kerley, regional vice president for McDonald's Corp. The company is working with local owner/operators "who think that their restaurants may be good candidates to offer extended hours."

Neighborhood activists dispute the idea that there are good candidates, and they don't like the way the company went about trying to extend its franchisees' hours.

"I sent 19 e-mails, and made six phone calls to attorney Steven A. Baddour, and not a single time did he return a call or an e-mail," said Joseph Mason, president of the East Boston Land Use Council.

Tim Reardon, president of Egleston Square Main Street's board of directors, had a similar reaction.

"No one from McDonald's came to talk to us about anything, which prompted a negative reaction from everyone in the neighborhood," he said. "And what's odd is that our executive director contacted the franchisee, and he said he hadn't filed" for the extension of hours. "It was filed by McDonald's for them."

The Licensing Board holds hearings at City Hall during working hours -- not a good time for most volunteer-run neighborhood groups. And while notices do go out, Pokaski said, "There has to be public outreach. Usually we require that an applicant go before the neighborhood groups prior to a hearing."

Some residents also argue that any late-night hours can cause trouble. The Eastie McDonald's at 178 Border St. was open only until 11 p.m. until its recent extension to midnight, Mason said.

So where's a night-owl to go? Outside of a few remaining 24-hour restaurants (see table above), there are a handful of places in Boston that stay open until 3 a.m.

"In Chinatown, there are a number of restaurant industry workers who get off late, and like to go out to eat before going home," Pokaski said.

But Pokaski noted that the Licensing Board restricted A. Bova & Sons, a North End bakery that used to serve pizza and coffee after 3 a.m., to just bakery products in the wee hours.

Dorchester still has an all-hours bowling alley, and three Shaw's markets in town -- in the Fenway, at the Pru, and in Allston's Packard's Corner -- are open 24 hours. And one can always wait up. Ethel and Andy's Sandwich Shop at 134 K St. in Southie opens at 4:30 a.m. Twin Donuts in Allston's Union Square opens at 4 Monday through Saturday.

But for most Bostonians and visitors, once the midnight hour rings, Pokaski said, "what we would like to see is for people to go home and go to sleep."

08-22-2007, 09:23 PM
This really bums me out. Why the hell can't you suck it up? Why don;t you go out and play too? Stop ruining our city, you damn NIMBYs!