Long Wharf restaurant gets court okay

Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Friday that a restaurateur can open a casual eatery on Boston’s Long Wharf, rebuffing a challenge from North End neighbors who said it would damage a popular gathering spot on the harbor.

Following a four-year legal battle, the court found that Michael Conlon, owner Eat Drink Laugh Restaurant Group, can proceed with his hotly-contested plan for the restaurant at the Long Wharf pavilion along Boston Harbor.

A group of North End neighbors disputed a 2008 Boston Redevelopment Authority decision allowing the project, arguing that it would create noise and was inappropriate for the waterfront location.

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The neighbors won a lower court decision, but the state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled Friday that the BRA acted appropriately, essentially giving new life to Conlon’s long-stalled restaurant project.

Conlon, whose company also owns the Stockyard restaurant in Brighton, The Paramount, and other Boston eateries, could not be reached for comment. A message left for the lawyer of the North End neighbors who initiated the lawsuit was not immediately returned.

A spokeswoman for The Boston Redevelopment Authority said in a statement, “We are pleased with the SJC’s decision. It paves the way for Boston to have yet another great waterfront destination that will be enjoyed by all of our residents and visitors alike.”

It is unclear when construction of the restaurant will proceed. Conlon had proposed to build a casual, 80-seat restaurant on Long Wharf called “Doc’s.” The plan included indoor and outdoor sections with a total of about 90 seats.

In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter back to a lower court to sort of the details, a process that could take several months.

Meanwhile, the BRA is moving forward with a new study that could result in sweeping changes to the area between Long Wharf and the Northern Avenue Bridge, where city officials are seeking to create a more active waterfront with additional opportunities for recreation, shopping and dining.

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