Representatives for The Thinking Cup appeared at the virtual Feb. 5 monthly meeting of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay Licensing and Building Use Committee to discuss the Newbury Street location’s proposal to make its longstanding patio ‘official.’
Tom Miller, an attorney for the applicant, said the coffee shop, located at 85 Newbury St., has operated the patio without incident since opening in 2014, and while it has never been licensed by the city’s Inspectional Services Department, a patio has been in existence at its current location since at least 2005.
“We just want to legalize what’s been there for quite some time,” said Attorney Miller, who added the patio, which wouldn’t be expanding, is currently cleaned by staff about every 10 minutes during business hours. “The patio will continue to operate in the way you’re accustomed to,” he said.
In another matter, Sushi By Bosso Ramen Tavern, which is slated to open in the former lower-level home of the Double Zero plant-based pizzeria at 163 Newbury St. this April, is now seeking to add cordials to its beer-and-wine license.
Yasu Sasago, who owns and operates another location of Sushi by Bosso Ramen Tavern on Holyoke Street in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, told LBU Committee members he wouldn’t be seeking to change anything else, including its previously proposed hours of operation of 9 a.m. to midnight daily. He added that plans for handling deliveries and trash operation will also remain unchanged.
When Sasago previously appeared before the LBU Committee at its virtual monthly meeting last July 10, he said then that the restaurant would offer sushi, in addition to Scandinavian and Northern European dishes, and that it would seat a total of 91 patrons, with 65 seats inside and another 26 seats outside on the patio.
Sasago told LBU Committee members at this week’s meeting that he now wants to also be able to provide his future patrons cocktails “sweetened and flavored” with liqueurs, like Bailey’s Irish Cream or Triple Sec, to complement food offerings, including Japanese desserts and sweets.
Conrad Armstrong, LBU Committee chair, told Sasago he would notify him of NABB’s determination (i.e. whether to oppose or not to oppose the application with the city) by Friday, Feb. 9; although this application was scheduled to go before the city’s Licensing Board on Wednesday, Feb. 7, Armstrong advised Sasago that the lag-time likely wouldn’t result in any significant delay in the city’s approval process.
The LBU Committee also heard a preliminary pitch from The Newman School, a private school at 245-247 Marlborough St., on its pending agreement to purchase the Jesuit Collaborative building at 298-300 Newbury St. for use as student and staff housing.
The Newman School currently serves around 250 students in Grades 7-12, about 15 to 20 percent of whom are international students, said Michael Schafer, head of school, and since the pandemic struck, the school has been leasing a property at 236-238 Beacon St. for use as student housing.
When the building at 298-300 Newbury St., which has been occupied by Jesuit priests since the 1940s, became available, Schafer said it provided an opportunity to “rebalance and stabilize the boarding program as a long-term initiative for the school’s future.”
Student housing proposed for the Newbury Street building would “ideally” have a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:12, said Schafer, who added that the school isn’t seeking to increase its boarding capacity, but instead to move out of its current arrangement as a lessee at 236-238 Beacon St. (Elliott Laffer of NABB advised the applicant that this faculty-to-student ratio would likely need to be maintained per the terms of a good-neighbor agreement with the organization.)
The property at 298-300 Newbury St. now comprises 28 single residential units in two contiguous brownstone buildings. “Most likely, we’d have some doubles and, in some cases, triples,” said Schafer, who added that most units in the Beacon Street building are doubles.
Between 35 and 40 students are expected to live in the two Newbury Street buildings during the roughly 32-week school year, spanning the last week of August until the first week of June (except for two-week vacations in December and March, respectively), said Schafer, as well as during the six-week summer school, which runs from the last week of June until the first week of June. Faculty would live there year-round, however, he said.
Food services for students would be either handled internally, said Schafer, or provided via an arrangement whereby The Newman would buy into another local school’s dining program. (Two kitchens located in the Newbury Street property would be used mainly by faculty, or occasionally, for social events for students, said Schafer, but the kitchens wouldn’t be open to the students themselves.)
Besides student and faculty housing, the Newbury Street property would also likely be used to accommodate a student lounge, as well as for administrative and perhaps classroom use.
“I’ll be fairly modest use,” said Schafer. “We’re not planning on moving the school there.”
Ten parking spaces also come with the purchase of the Newbury Street property, said Schafer, which would be reserved for resident faculty or perhaps rented to other faculty members.
Jean Silvestri, a trustee with the school, said they are just now laying down the “initial groundwork,” and that they would return to the LBU Committee with a more detailed plan. She added that the applicant would need a change in usage for the property from the city for the project to proceed. Armstrong advised the applicant that without knowing what kind of variance the applicant would be seeking, “it would be tough to take a position at this time.” He added that he would send the applicant an email next week detailing the committee’s comments on their proposal.