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Dave & Buster's clears big hurdle in Braintree

Posted by dinouye  October 6, 2010 02:14 PM

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Dave and Buster’s took a big step closer to opening at the South Shore Plaza, with the Braintree Planning Board’s decision Monday to approve the company’s plan for a restaurant-arcade.

The $12 million project to renovate the now-vacant Circuit City store has generated a lot of concern and opposition throughout a two-year-long quest to be approved. For many, Monday’s action essentially ends that controversy.

This would be the first Massachusetts outpost for the Texas-based chain, which is already in two dozen states and also has a pending application in Burlington.

“I think majority of, if not all, residential concerns have been addressed,” said Robert Harnais, chairman of Braintree's Planning Board. “[But] it’s been a long process.”

In total, 54 conditions were set in place by the board in order to approve the business. Among them, D&B must return to the Planning Board in nine months for a review of the business, must make contributions to a safety fund for the town (which will buy Braintree a new police car), and maintain an exterior security system in addition to the usual interior one.

The conditions were made in an effort to mitigate concerns townspeople had about the safety of the arcade. Dave & Buster's sites usually have a restaurant and bar, as well as a large arcade with more than 150 electronic games. Many fear that this type of business would draw an undesirable crowd.

But after visitiing a D&B in Rhode Island, Harris said he wasn't concerned.

“I think it’s a good addition to Braintree. It’s a good concept,” he said.

As for the review, Harnais doesn’t expect to run into any controversy. If anything, it’s to reassure the town that the business is being held accountable, Harnais said.

“The Planning Board wants to be able to discuss in nine months how the progress has gone, especially in relation to the issues we’ve addressed. And if everything is okay, everything is okay,” he said.

Townspeople also brought up traffic concerns. However, according to Harnais, traffic studies have shown that D&B's peak hours do not coincide with the peak hours of the mall.

Another compromise D&B made was in the square footage of the gaming area. The current plans call for 48 percent of the building to be used for games, and reduced the number of games to 168 from 170.

According to D&B attorney Andrew Upton, the process was long, but fair.

“The Planning Board process was thorough and rigorous, but I think we satisfied their concerns,” Upton said.

The next step is to go before the Licensing Board. Although the board had approved the liquor license in a previous meeting, the store hours and game machines have yet to be approved.

However, Upton isn’t overly concerned.

“[This approval] should give us a running start with the licensing board, but I expect that board to put us through our paces as well,” he said.

The hearing at the Licensing Board has yet to be scheduled, but with hopes of starting construction as early as January, Upton expects the meeting to be held within the next 30-45 days.

Separately, D&B has also filed an application with the Planning Board of Burlington to put a franchise at 90 Middlesex Turnpike.

Upton said he doesn’t expect to run into as much controversy because the Burlington site is much more isolated.

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