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City board blocks Villa Mexico Cafe's attempted move to Grove Street

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  May 8, 2012 04:04 PM

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Villa Mexico Cafe, the Mexican take-out restaurant operating from a Beacon Hill gas station, will not be able to move to a Grove Street building just 100 feet from its current location.

The Boston Zoning Board of Appeals denied an application to allow a 400-square-foot first floor unit at 12 Grove St. to occupied by Villa Mexico Cafe once its current home, Grampy’s gas station, is redeveloped into office buildings.

The space in the residential building is a former barbershop that has been vacant for at least two decades, according to neighborhood residents, and a zoning variance was needed to allow it to be used as a commercial space with a takeout license.

More than a dozen neighbors and patrons attended the hearing and testified in support of the restaurant’s move, saying owner Julie King and her daughter Bessie King have been good neighbors during their six years in Beacon Hill and that they did not want to see the restaurant leave the neighborhood.

King has said that she cannot afford the rent for another storefront in Beacon Hill and had agreed to enter a good neighbor agreement with the community and meet other requests to address concerns.

The board could not consider the tenant’s situation when making its decision but rather focused on whether the building owner, who receives the variance, has no other way to use the space and how that variance would affect the surrounding community.

“This is about zoning and the use of the space,” chairman Robert Shortsleeve said. “It’s not a personal thing.”

Opponents of the move, including members of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, argued that the take-out restaurant did not fit the environment of the residential street and could bring increased traffic. Opponents also noted that the property owner could renovate the space to be part of an existing apartment.

Shortsleeve said the divisive issue was especially sensitive because the neighborhood is so densely populated and said he could not support the variance given the opposition and possible impact.

“This is not going to further unite the neighborhood,” he said.
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Twitter: @YourBeaconHill, @JohannaKaiser
E-mail: johanna.yourtown@gmail.com

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