Proposed take-out place loses license bid because of violence in and near its Grove Hall building

The Boston Licensing Board Thursday rejected a proposed takeout place after city officials said its owner has failed to do enough to curb violence in and near the Warren Street block of stores he owns.

John Shear, who owns a commercial building on Warren Street at the intersection with Blue Hill Avenue, went before the board yesterday for permission to open La Rotisserie at 651 Warren St., just a couple doors down from his 24Seven Convenience Store, where a man was gunned down on March 31.

At a hearing yesterday, Shear and his proposed manager, Donnell Singleton, said their place would provide a healthier alternative to the fast and fried food available in Grove Hall, through dishes that would be baked and sauteed rather than cooked in vats of oil. They sought permission to stay open until 1 a.m., saying that other nearby food outlets, such as the Red Island Chinese restaurant and Grove Hall Pizza, are open that late.

But representatives from the mayor's office and several city councilors stood to oppose the late-night hours in general and Shear in particular, pointing to the murder and a January raid of the store's basement that yielded drugs and guns as proof Shear is not doing his part to keep the neighborhood safe. Singleton is manager of the convenience store, which has been shut since the murder.

"It's a problem property," Keith Williams, the city's associate director of neighborhood services, told the board. "The site's loosely managed....The neighborhood's subjected to a lot of crimes."

Williams said Red Island had earned its 1 a.m. closing time in part because it has been open for 20 years with no problems. He noted that a new New York Fried Chicken across Warren only got a license for midnight.

Shear and Singleton reacted angrily, saying they keep their stores clean, and that they can't control what happens outside.

Singleton, a program coordinator with the city StreetSafe Team, which works with at-risk teens to reduce violence, said another murder victim, shot outside a nearby bank, died in his arms because he heard a commotion and ran out of the convenience store just in time to have the man collapse in front of him.

The March "assassination" was an unfortunate example of that outside world intruding on their store, Shear said, adding he didn't know that "kids" were storing drugs in his basement.

Board member Suzanne Ianella expressed doubts the board should reject the request outright. "So basically, they'd rather have an empty store?" she asked Williams, adding the board couldn't just reject something "just because there was a previous problem." Williams, however, said the neighborhood deserved to see some action from Shear to clean up his property before letting him expand with a new business.

Shear said that since his return to Grove Hall last year from overseas, he had put large "No Loitering" signs in his windows.

In addition to the mayor's office, city councilors Tito Jackson (Roxbury), Felix Arroyo (at large), Ayanna Pressley (at large) and Steve Murphy (at large) also objected to the license request.