By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Marc Phaneuf, Jr. and Daniel Gadbois, representing Hooters Restaurant, were present at the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen’s meeting Aug. 11 to continue a hearing that had first been held on July 28. The hearing had been called to address the request for food and liquor licenses for a proposed 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. Gadbois will serve as the Shrewsbury restaurant’s general manager. The Hooters team is hoping to open the new restaurant within three to four months.
At the Aug. 11 meeting, however, a new wrinkle was added, with the restaurant seeking a “conditional issuing” of the licenses in the absence of pending site approval. As Phaneuf explained, the local restaurant remaking from the prior tenant, Chili’s, will have cost between $600,000 and $1,000,000 by the time all rebuilding and renovation has been completed. In addition, the new restaurant had 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. Confusion arose in July 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.
This unusual Aug. 11 request from the Hooters representatives was further complicated by the fact that approval of the site plan will not be addressed by the Planning Board until September. One of the primary issues is the screening, fencing, and lighting of the restaurant as it abuts residential properties, a source of continuing contention with neighbors. The restaurant – a tenant of the property – is restricted to making such improvements on its leased property and not infringing upon neighboring properties, as noted by Selectman Maurice DePalo.
Selectman Henry Fitzgerald added that, in his opinion, the restaurant management had shown almost no consideration for its neighbors, adding that the management had said they “would think about” making the restaurant site more neighbor-friendly. Phaneuf responded that he knew of the concerns and would put additional pressure on the landlord to address them. Town Manager Daniel Morgado added that the landlord had notified the town that he would mitigate problems with the site fencing.
Selectman James Kane noted that although he did not envy the restaurant management’s position regarding neighbors, he was still uncomfortable with the site plan. Further, he asked what would happen if the owner possibly appeals the site plan restrictions.
“The plans are too loosey-goosey for me,” he added.
Kane reiterated that the site plan needs to be finalized before proceeding with issuing business licenses. Phaneuf replied that he would be willing to modify the restaurant’s business hours to mollify neighbors.
Several neighbors then spoke. One Pleasant Street resident worried about after-hours drinking in the area of the restaurant; that motorcycles leaving the restaurant would make too much noise at night; and requested the town of Shrewsbury sign – across the street from the restaurant – be moved so as not to damage the image of the town. Selectmen Chair Moira Miller replied that those issues were not relevant to this hearing.
A neighbor on Crescent Street asked that opening hours on Sunday be moved up to 12 p.m. since there were many churches in the area. To this request, Phaneuf agreed.
Another resident, Benjamin Tartaglia, said that a Hooters restaurant would harm Shrewsbury’s image and requested the board move the restaurant to the “adult entertainment stretch along Route 20.”
Miller responded that, first, the adult entertainment zone along Route 20 is in Worcester, not Shrewsbury, and second, that the business of this evening’s meeting dealt only with granting business licenses. Selectman John Lebeaux added that the selectmen were “not in the business of being moral arbiters.”
With the site plan still pending, the board then moved to continue the hearing until September, after the Planning Board has taken action.