By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Marc Phaneuf, Jr. and Daniel Gadbois appeared at a public hearing before the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen July 28, seeking a Common Victualler’s License and an All Alcoholic Beverage Pouring License for a new Hooters Restaurant to be located at the site of the former Chili’s Restaurant at 291 Boston Turnpike Rd. Phaneuf’s company, Phancon, Inc., operates eight other Hooters in New England and New York. The two in Massachusetts are in West Springfield and Saugus. Gadbois will serve as the Shrewsbury restaurant’s general manager.
The Shrewsbury deal was publicly announced in June. According to Phaneuf, the restaurant should be open within 90-120 days and employ 75-80 full- and part-time employees. He said Shrewsbury was selected because of the heavy traffic along Route 9 and the area’s demographics.
Hooters is a Florida beach-themed restaurant chain originally famous for its young, attractive waitresses who wore short, tight orange and white t-shirts and shorts. More recently, according to Phaneuf, the company has made the uniforms more modest and has adapted its menu to offer healthier options, although Hooters Original Chicken Wings will still be prominently featured.
The new restaurant has become an object of curiosity and concern for some residents because of the noise and traffic associated with such a business that operates well into the night. The restaurant would be alongside the Fairlawn Plaza Shopping Center and abut a residential neighborhood.
At the July 28 meeting, Gadbois told selectmen that he has been in the restaurant business since 2004 and has managed a number of food establishments. He is coming from New York, where he ran a similarly-sized Hooters Restaurant. Phaneuf told selectmen that he has been involved with the Hooters franchise system since 1994. Upon questioning, Phaneuf indicated that all restaurant employees complete a state-run 90 minute online course regarding alcohol pouring laws, and then complete a five-day course on the subject.
Selectman James Kane asked if the business volume would be about the same as was the case for Chili’s, to which Phaneuf replied yes. He added that it is not anticipated that there will be no more noise and commotion coming from the restaurant than before nor will there be outside music or entertainment. Selectman Henry Fitzgerald was assured that the size of the parking lot reserved for the restaurant will not be changed from its current total capacity of 125 vehicles. Similarly, Selectman Maurice Depalo was told that neither the building’s façade nor exterior lighting would be changed substantially from what is now the case. He was also reassured that restaurant parking would not be allowed to overflow into the other spaces reserved for the rest of the shopping plaza. Town Manager Daniel Morgado affirmed that the lease stating the parking limitations would be upheld.
Confusion arose when the site plan submitted by the owner was seen to not be the same as that being used by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, both of which are also involved in this case.
The hearing was then opened to the public. Daniele Hayes, 11 Bailey Rd., asked a series of questions regarding the potential for noise and light pollution, concentration of businesses along this stretch of Route 9, and the number of liquor licenses the town issues. Ronald Bertelli, Elm Street, also rose to raise his concerns about the traffic expected from the new restaurant, whether there would be adequate parking for the 25-30 employees on duty at any one time, and whether trash removal could be moved from the nighttime to daylight hours.
Phaneuf reiterated that “Hooters wants to be a good neighbor for the community” and would work around neighbors’ concerns as best he could. He added that the hours of operation are dictated by the corporation and that there was little flexibility for neighbors who wanted an earlier daily closing of the restaurant, especially since the target audience (21-49 year olds) “has its own eating habits”.
Fitzgerald moved to continue the hearing until the selectmen’s Tuesday, Aug. 11 meeting.