The corner of Hancock Street and Payson Avenue has a dismal history that stretches back many years. District C-11 regularly reported that 33 Hancock St. was the site of more 911 calls than any other address in the district.
Whether it was called the Hancock Café, the Rendezvous Lounge, or Ka-Carlos, the site has been a source of violence and disruption for this neighborhood, the result of a string of broken promises that ended tragically with the murder of two people in 2009. The building was subsequently foreclosed and the liquor license sold to a restaurant on the South Boston waterfront.
Finally, the neighborhood was able to breathe. Gone were the late night fights, the after-hours gambling, and the loud music. Gone were the people shooting up behind the bar, the broken glass all over Payson Avenue and the cars blocking residents’ driveways.
In 2010, Stephen Bingham purchased the building and announced that he wanted to open “a family restaurant.” He told this neighborhood that he had no plans to serve hard liquor but might serve beer and wine. There would be soft jazz, valet parking, an early closing hour.
Yet Bingham’s license application – for an all-alcoholic beverage license, a 2 a.m. closing hour, live entertainment, and patron dancing – told a very different story and when his all-alcoholic beverage license was denied, he used the building to cook for his daycare centers. It never re-opened as a restaurant.
This April, the neighborhood learned that 33 Hancock St. had been leased to Capital Green Corporation (CGC), dba Kriola Bar and Restaurant. The city hosted an abutters’ meeting on April 5 to discuss CGC’s proposal to open “a family restaurant,” Neighbors who were present said that they did not want to see a full liquor license at 33 Hancock and CGC stated that they would only be serving beer and wine. When asked how the neighborhood could be sure that they would not turn around in six months and request an all-alcoholic beverage license, CGC partner Carla Texeira stated, “We will not change it in six months, in a year, in two years – this is what we are going to do.”
Neighbors still had concerns about food service, management, hours of operation, and parking, to name just a few. Flavio Daveiga, the city of Boston’s mid-Dorchester coordinator, assured those present that a memorandum of agreement with the neighborhood would be negotiated before CGC could open.
It took exactly 16 days for CGC to renege on its promise to serve only beer and wine. On April 21, CGC partner Gabriel Livramento announced at the Hancock Street Civic Association meeting that CGC had learned that there were only 15 neighborhood designated all-alcoholic beverage licenses remaining and that these licenses will become available in August. CGC’s new plan was to open in May 2016 without alcohol, begin serving beer and wine in the fall, and then, since, as he stated “expansion is a goal of any business”, “Kriola Bar & Restaurant will determine if an expansion to an all alcoholic beverages establishment is warrant” (sic).
A group of neighbors met on April 27 and formed the 33 Hancock Street Task Force. Neighbors present were unanimous that they do not want to see a restaurant opened on that site. People felt that even beer and wine were likely to cause a return to the many problems we fought so long and hard to eliminate. Based on this meeting, we sent a letter to the Licensing Board on May 4, expressing the neighborhood’s opposition and asking them not to grant a restaurant license to CGC.
We received no response and the board voted on May 12 to grant a restaurant license to CGC. CGC is currently renovating the building and anticipates a June opening. There is no memorandum of agreement and the city has initiated no further discussion to develop one.
CGC’s plan for serving alcohol continued to expand. On May 16, Gabriel Livramento sent an email to the Jones Hill and Hancock Street Civic Associations, stating that CGC intends to apply for an all alcoholic beverage license “now since they’ll no longer be available afterwards.”
It seems clear to the members of the 33 Hancock Street Task Force and to the many neighbors we have spoken to that CGC has intended from the beginning to obtain a full liquor license and to operate a bar on the corner of Hancock Street and Payson Avenue. Perhaps the first clue is in the name – Kriola Bar & Restaurant. In a conversation one task force member had with CGC partner Carlos Depina, he stated, “This place is going to be a gold mine.”
We have been here many times before. A “family restaurant,” “valet parking,” “‘soft music only” – it’s all blue smoke and mirrors.
CGC partners have said that one of them would be on site during all hours of operation managing the business. They have also stated that they all have full-time professional jobs. When it was pointed out that they would each have to be at Kriola more than 58 hours a week to be on-site managers during all hours of operation, Gabriel Livramento responded that they all have wives, cousins, etc. they could call on to do the job. Restaurant management cannot be the responsibility of whichever relative happens to be available at the moment.
Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” In the discrepancies between the facts and what the group has told the neighborhood, CGC has shown us who they are – and it just doesn’t add up.
We are homeowners and renters. Some of us have lived here for many years; others are newer arrivals. We come from Haiti, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, Cape Verde, the American South, and the Boston area. We all share a deep commitment to making this neighborhood a safe and peaceful place to live. We do not need or want what CGC has shown us they intend to do at 33 Hancock Street.
Signed, The 33 Hancock Street Task Force: Gracieth Amado / Nicolle Amado/ Antonia Baptista / Arminda Baptista / Ben Cain / Sarah Cain Monica Coleman/ Eddie Escobar/ Veronica Floyd / Marti Glynn / Brenda Harley / Thomas Harley / Gail Hennessey / Shirley Jones / Stan Jones / Joy Sequeira / Jackie Joseph / Kearney Kirby / Greg Maxwell / Judy Maxwell / Barbara Mayo / Bill Mayo / Eliza McCroskey / Bob Mickiewicz / Michael Mulyk/ Michael Pratt/ Teresa Reed / Etienne Regis / Ivy Smith.