NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 26, 2013

Proposed Ale House unlikely to win quick approval

It looks like it will be a long and winding road before restaurateur Joe Leone can get permission to open his proposed Newburyport Ale House at 40 Merrimac St., in the rambling, red brick warehouse that housed Davis Auto Parts. But it’s possible.

Leone and his team have appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Historical Commission and the Waterfront Trust. An additional hoop they will like have to jump through is that held aloft by the Planning Board.

Plans call for 591 seats in summer. Because the Black Cow and Michael’s Harborside each offer more than 400 seasonal seats, the waterfront could be a lively locale if the Ale House does open.

Leone is getting qualified support as he works to comply with the info requests from commissions. Among those who have publicly said that they favor the idea if details can be worked out include Planning Director Andy Port, Waterfront Trust Vice Chairman Doug Locy and ZBA member Jamie Pennington.

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Mental meanderings of Your Scribe:

The potential for more commerce has raised the question of more parking. A report commissioned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority recently stated that there is more than enough parking downtown on all days except major celebrations such as Yankee Homecoming. If that study was done before the Ale House was announced, that analysis might have to be revisited.

The parking lot of the nearby Immaculate Conception Church and School is frequently mentioned as a potential spillover parking site on weekends. Has anyone actually approached church leaders about this prospect?

On the other hand, think of Fenway Park and the Hatch Shell in Boston. There is little public parking for either venue, but they both draw overflow crowds.

Careers in the hospitality industry is under the radar of the job-counting crowd, but it appears the restaurant and bar business is a major source of new employment in the city. The business and industrial park is just about full and manufacturing is fading, which the loss of 70 jobs at Mersen announced last week appears to confirm. Well, hospitality and medical.

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