NEHGS Plans to Open Café Next Door at 97 Newbury St.

As part of its expansion into the building next door at 97 Newbury St., the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS ), located at 99 Newbury St., intends to open a café, which would sell offer coffee, soft drinks, and prepared food items, with no onsite cooking.

Ryan Woods, executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer of the American Ancestors and NEHGS, detailed the proposal on Monday, May 2, during the monthly hearing of the Neighborhood Association Licensing and Building Use Committee, which was held virtually.

Several years ago, the NEHGS  acquired the building at 97 Newbury St. from the owner of John Lewis, a jewelry store that previously occupied the first-floor retail space, said Woods, and the organization has been identifying steps for its redevelopment since then as part of its Cornerstone Project – a self-described “multi-faceted endeavor with components that include: community outreach; diversification of content; in-person and virtual learning opportunities; and capital expansion.”

The Learning Commons Complex – an approximately 305 square-foot public space with food service – would be located at the rear of the first floor of the new building, said Woods, after entering through the main entrance at 97 Newbury St. and passing through a narrow retail-space on the right-hand side.

Its operating hours would mirror the current hours of NEHGS – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday – to start and for the immediate future, said Woods.

For the new café, the applicant only intends to add a service counter with a sink and disposal, said Woods, and since it would offer prepared food only, with no cooking on site, there are no plans for exterior hoods or ventilation. Alcohol also wouldn’t be served at the café, added Woods.

The proposed café would require a conditional-use permit from the city, said Woods, since the space is currently zoned as retail. Elliott Laffer, chair of NABB’s board of directors, also advised him that the applicant would also need to secure a Common Victualler (CV) license from the city for the proposed café.

Conrad Armstrong, committee chair, told Woods he could notify him of how NABB’s Executive Committee votes on the application within the next two weeks.

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