Loyal Nine, a restaurant with Colonial bent, OK’d to revitalize its East Cambridge area (correction)
An empty package store in East Cambridge is being transformed into restaurant called Loyal Nine, focused on small plates of locally sourced shellfish, meat and produce.
But the plates are the only thing about Loyal Nine that’s small. As proposed to the License Commission on Tuesday, it’s a 160-seat restaurant with a 10-year lease and a full day of food service that will include a 10 a.m. Sunday brunch. The $330,000 buildout will transform an empty space from the ground up, possibly opening in March.
The name honors the “Loyal Nine” patriot protesters of the Stamp Act, a group that predated the Revolutionary War-plotting Sons of Liberty, and co-owner and manager Dan Myers said the food would be inspired by what was found around Colonial Boston.
“Our menu will be shared dishes featuring a lot of shellfish and a lot of local vegetables. Our chef works very closely with a lot of farms in the area,” Myers said, noting that even the need for a full alcohol license was driven in part by a wish to serve era-appropriate rums and punches that complemented the period-inspired food.
Support, save for two
The restaurant won approval from the commission, who asked that first-time owners Myers and Rebecca Theris return six months after opening for a review of how their business is working in the largely residential area around 660-674 Cambridge St.
There were a slew of letters of support – including from Mayor David Maher, vice mayor Dennis Benzan, councillor Tim Toomey and the East Cambridge Planning Team – for the activation of what attorney Kevin Crane called a “tired” stretch of Cambridge Street and revitalization of a space closed since a fire in the winter of 2012. But a sole opponent spoke Tuesday to say Loyal Nine was “going to be a disaster for the area.”
“We’ve never had this in our area,” said longtime East Cambridge resident Anthony Chesnakas, pointing out parking stresses as well as the potential for schoolchildren in nearby buildings to have trouble sleeping over the noise of even quiet conversation. “Another tasteful restaurant in our neighborhood would be welcome … but hard alcohol to one o’clock in the morning? And music?”
“Who goes out at 10 o’clock at night except people that like hard liquor?” Chesnakas asked.
Crane, however, noted that the restaurant was in a business district, and that he and the restaurant team had worked hard to make contact with neighbors and upstairs tenants, only to find enthusiasm for the project. While Chesnakas said he had talked to “at least a dozen” neighbors who opposed Loyal Nine’s plans – later downgraded to “at least seven” – there was only one letter of opposition received by the commission.
Commission chairwoman Andrea Spears Jackson asked Myers and Theris if they would compromise and close the restaurant’s 32-seat seasonal and somewhat secluded patio at 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, an hour earlier than Thursdays through Saturdays. The owners agreed, bringing the commission’s approval with the six-month review. (Other co-owners are Bondir’s Marc Sheehan and David Beller.)
In addition to being big, Loyal Nine promises long hours: from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days per week, including a 25-seat daytime cafe area for coffee, breakfast and sandwiches and a seven-seat bar. In a rare step for a Boston area bar, there will be no televisions in Loyal Nine, Crane said, and therefore no one showing up to watch a game. The cafe was described as being a good meeting space, and Crane called Loyal Nine a “neighborhood” restaurant.
Answering a need
“As far as concern about someone showing up for a drink at midnight, this is not the orientation of this particular establishment,” Crane said. In appealing for being granted a license instead of buying one – Crane said the cost of all existing Cambridge licenses were “cost-prohibitive … every existing license costs too much” and as a mom and pop establishment “we just can’t afford them” – the team said alcohol was expected to be about a quarter of the business, with hard liquor making up about 8 percent.
The patio will have no music, and the entertainment License is for music below conversation level.
While Chesnakas said approval of Loyal Nine would cause him to move out of the neighborhood, Myers and Theris – who have worked at restaurants and bars including Spoke, Puritan & Company, Bergamot and Hungry Mother and live in Somerville about a half-mile from the restaurant site – believed the restaurant answered a local need.
“There’s nowhere to go get a decent bite of food after 10 p.m.,” Myers said. “The reason we’re staying open is for folks like us. You get [out of work] at 10:30 p.m., let alone midnight, there’s simply nowhere for us to dine, even have a cheeseburger. We’re looking to build that and make it a place where folks can responsibly get some alcohol and a plate of food later in the evening.”
This post was updated Oct. 1, 2014, to reflect that Myers expected a March opening, rather than the January date based on his estimate of designs being filed in up to three weeks followed by about 14 weeks of construction.