Monday, May 20, 2024

Cambridge’s Alewife area is getting a seasonal beer garden like The Trillium Garden on The Greenway. (Photo: Trillium)

An Alewife-area beer garden won approval Monday from the License Commission to take over part of the Fresh Pond Mall parking lot.

The Fresh Pond Beer Garden would be able to seat 188 people and hold 500 at 168 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands, near Apple Cinemas Cambridge and a Staples office supply store. Customers would be entertained by games and weekend music and could buy food from a rotating set of food trucks, similar to operations at the Trillium Garden on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway or Notch Brewery Beer Garden in Brighton.

“There’s not much over in that location except [the restaurant] Summer Shack, and we think this will be a great addition,” said Kevin Treanor, owner of Central Square’s Phoenix Landing and other area restaurants and bars. “There’s a need for people to be outside and sitting outside and enjoying food and drink. We see a lot of them popping up in Boston, and we’d love to open this one in Cambridge.”

Though it could become a regional attraction, Treanor suggested just those within walking distance might be enough to prove the concept. “We’re hoping that people come from Alewife Station and Uber or walk, but there’s 30,000 people who moved into that neighborhood already, and they’re not being serviced at all right now,” he said.

For at least the first four months of operation – the venture has a 120-day license from city zoning officials – the beer garden will use the chain-link fence by the train tracks as a back wall and define the rest of its 3,750 square feet with three 340-foot containers and some Jersey barriers. Overhead, “we’re going to start with tents. If it becomes successful, we would apply for maybe more semi-permanent trellises to be built for next year,” architect Gary Mendoza said.

The beer garden with entertainment would be open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily, but likely limit its DJ’d or live acoustic music to within 5 and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to keep from annoying neighbors. “That’s pretty much what we’re planning at the start to see how it goes. It’s going to be new for all of us. We’re going to be learning as we go along,” Treanor said.

Jim O’Rourke, who owns The Heights pub in Arlington and First House Pub in Winchester, is a partner.

There were neighbors worried about noise, safety and drunkenness, but the beer garden arrived at the License Commission with several letters of support and a powerful name vouching for it in person: Michael Monestime, former executive director of the Central Square Business Improvement District.

Treanor could be trusted, said Monestime, citing his “upstanding and outstanding ethic” in general and his running of a World Cup soccer event at University Park specifically. It drew 3,500 people and had a beer garden “that went up and down without any incident,” Monestime said.

The final argument – perhaps shaped by the fact Monestime lives in North Cambridge not far from Alewife – was even simpler.

“There’s not enough of these joyful destinations citywide,” Monestime told license commissioners.

Commissioners agreed, granting the beer garden licensing; chair Nicole Murati Ferrer said there was “a definite need, a public need, for this type of license at this location.”