The East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) held their Feb. meeting via Zoom on Feb. 1, where members and neighbors discussed a liquor license request for a new restaurant in the Troy, a business spotlight on Berkshire Bank, and had a conversation with State Rep. Jon Santiago.
Liquor License Request:
Jim Cochener of Coda Restaurant Group and Tim Hawkins, General Manager of SRV Boston, came before the EBNA to talk about a new restaurant they hope to open in the Troy before the end of the year.
Coda Restaurant Group operates The Salty Pig and SRV, and are now looking to open a full service, “Mediterranean-focused” restaurant that will offer a raw bar, as well as other seafood and grilled items along with vegetarian options in a “shared-plate” style, Hawkins said at the meeting.
He said the hope is to transfer the all-alcohol license from Coda, which closed in 2020.
Hawkins said that the hours are “still a little bit muddy,” but the restaurant will probably open at around 4pm. He said that the license right now is until 1am, but there’s “no way we’d be open until 1am every day.”
There is also no set opening date, though the team is aiming for fall of this year.
Hawkins said that they are “hoping to offer a good value to the community” with a “casual price point.”
The restaurant will have about 100 seats inside with an additional 16 seats at the bar, and around 20 on the patio on East Berkeley St.
EBNA President Leslie Fine brought up an issue with Area Four, the restaurant that was in this space but has since closed. She said that there had been issues with the dumpster, including that “it was an eyesore because it was not monitored properly.” Because it was overflowing, it created a problem with trash and rodents in the area, as well as an issue with odor in the summer, Fine said.
“Some of the people around there are concerned about that,” she said.
The team said that they will ensure that this is not a problem with this restaurant, adding that they will speak with the landlord of the building to come up with solutions to address that problem.
The team also said they will keep EBNA updated as plans become more concrete for this new restaurant.
Berkshire Bank— Business Spotlight
Hans Bastien of Berkshire Bank spoke on behalf of the bank and answered some questions from neighbors.
“It’s well-documented what we do from a philanthropic and charitable standpoint,” Bastien said. “We do have quite a niche as far as working with not-for-profits in particular.”
Bastien described Berkshire Bank as a “neighborhood bank” that gladly welcomes all in-person transactions while simultaneously offering a full range of online banking options.
“We are also a very traditional bank in the sense of how we deliver customer service,” he said, adding that people can call the bank directly with any questions they may have.
The bank offers safe deposit boxes in multiple sizes, and reimburses ATM fees, “including foreign fees,” he said.
A question was asked about notary services, which Bastien said the bank does offer, even if a person does not have an account with Berkshire Bank.
Resident Jane Braydon expressed that she feels the bank “doesn’t feel like a neighborhood bank anymore,” because she said she noticed a number of new faces and people rotating in and out often instead of the same faces. She said that “a familiar face or two at the bank” is important to her.
“It certainly is challenging,” Bastien said, as many industries are facing high rates of turnover right now. “What I will say is—you may see changing faces,” he said, but “there is a theme in terms of the culture that Berkshire tries to create.”
Conversation with Jon Santiago
State Rep. Jon Santiago said that though he has not officially announced his campaign for re-election, he intends to do so, and that because of redistricting, his district will now include the East Berkeley area.
The changes to the district maps will go into effect with this year’s election.
Santiago lives in the South End with his wife, who is 36 weeks pregnant with their first child. Aside from his role as a State Rep., he is also an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center, has served as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is a captain in the Army Reserve.
He spoke about several issues he’s worked on, including the crisis as Mass and Cass and “attempting to decentralize services.” He said as a State Rep., he works to get funds for issues like this, and also works with the city on various issues. He said he has a “great relationship” with City Councilor Ed Flynn.
Aimee Coolidge thanked Santiago for his involvement with the community, and asked “from a clinical perspective” what he thought was the “best way to respond” to those dealing with addiction as well as what he thinks of safe injection sites.
Santiago said that not everyone has a true grasp on “how challenging the issues are for these patients,” as many of them face mental health and housing issues on top of their substance use issues.
He said that it’s not always as simple as offering services to these patients, as many refuse and end up back where they came from. “You have to keep on asking and working and being empathetic,” he said. “I continue to make sure their voices are elevated.”
As for safe consumption sites, Santiago said “I do think they work,” but he said that there are different models to look at. He said in places like Montreal and Toronto, these sites are “spaced out” and “really came out of the community health center movement” as well as the “needle exchange movement.”
He said, “I think they are a potential option,” but “from a policy perspective and a legal one,” it would be challenging to make them a reality in Boston. “I think the political will in the State House is not there yet,” Santiago said.
He said that with “several methadone clinics” as well as homeless shelters and the Boston Medical Center in the Mass/Cass area already, he “would not be in favor of putting [a safe injection site] in the South End.” He said that as someone who is aiming to decentralize services, having a safe injection site in an area where so many other services are already concentrated would not help the issues.
Santiago encouraged residents to reach out to him at [email protected] with any questions, comments, or concerns. Either he or a member of his team also try to make it to community meetings to get a feel for resident concerns as well, he said.