By Donald Norton
Struggling to survive, the prime tenant at the Armory, “Arts at the Armory,” a nonprofit organization, is now seeking permission from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to ease certain restrictions in how they do business.
Attorney Adam Dash, representing the nonprofit, says that the situation at the Armory with revenue is not working out well at this time. In order for them to continue they are asking the ZBA to allow them to extend their hours of operation to midnight during the week from Sunday to Thursday, and to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
They are also seeking to increase the general capacity from the current 390 to 495. They want to be able to cook on the premises both for the Café and the hall itself.
Additionally, they are looking to allow outside seating for the Café, not as an increase in overall capacity, but to move 20 seats to the outside area in order to give the Café more visibility.
One thing that the neighbors are opposed to is having the ZBA lift the restrictions on the Armory applying for a full liquor license. All of these restrictions were placed on the Armory in the past by the ZBA.
The hall was packed with residents who are directly abutted with the Armory and were opposed to the lifting of the restrictions, citing the noise coming from the building at night, as well as the amount of cars in the neighborhood. John Sullivan, an abutter and community activist, along with several others, were very vocal on the ZBA not granting the Armory their requests.
A few of the Aldermen that were present, White, Sullivan, and Desmond, suggested that the proposal was going too far and that easing the restrictions would not be good for the neighbors. Alderman Sean O’Donovan, whose Ward the Armory is in, suggested along with Alderman Tom Taylor, whose Ward would be impacted as well, that some kind of mediation process be implemented.
The President of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the proposal. Others from around the city expressed support as well for the “Arts for the Armory,” saying that we should not lose “this valuable and wonderful resource” here in Somerville. Many spoke in favor of the request.
The Board did not vote on the matter, but will do so at its next meeting. Attorney Dash asked the Board not to delay much longer since finances were short and they needed to get and answer soon.