Published in the February 28, 2018 edition
WAKEFIELD — The selectmen welcomed two new restaurants to town Monday night, and then debated how long they should be open.
Las Chivas, Inc., received all necessary licenses to open Tequila’s Grill & Cantina in the Greenwood Plaza. This family-style Mexican restaurant will serve customers in the space formerly occupied by Portobello Restaurant.
Also with the selectmen’s support this week, CMRG, LLC soon will open Tonno Wakefield in a significant portion of the ground floor of the still under-construction Wakefield Station at 175 North Ave.
Eric Brambila and Alvaro Arechiga will run Tequila’s. Initially, the selectmen approved their restaurant being open until midnight. Not long afterward, the board approved Tonno Wakefield’s closing time at 1 a.m. Eventually, they made the later time for both establishments 1 a.m., in case they ever need to be open that late.
Atty. Brian McGrail represented both applicants at the selectmen’s meeting.
He said Brambila and Arechiga have entered into at least a five year, option-ladened lease with the Greenwood Plaza management company. Brambila runs a Tequila’s in Chelmsford and the Ixtapa Mexican Grill & Cantina in Groton. McGrail explained that Brambila has significant restaurant experience; his family and extended family, in fact, operate about 30 restaurants in Massachusetts alone.
Brambila, who will be the majority owner of the Tequila’s in Greenwood, grew up in Chicago, the son of parents who were both born in Mexico. Always a hard worker, Brambila moved to North Carolina when he was 17 to work for a cousin who ran a Mexican restaurant in that state. At the age of 27, he became partners with another cousin in the Ixtapa in Groton. The Tequila’s in Chelmsford opened last year.
McGrail stressed in his presentation to the selectmen that Tequila’s Grill & Cantina “is a restaurant, not a bar. This is a family restaurant with Mexican fare.”
Selectman Anthony Longo told McGrail and his clients that there is “no doubt in my mind you’ll be successful” in the Greenwood Plaza location.
Selectman Ed Dombroski wanted to make sure the Tequila’s owners knew of some recent issues the town has had with other establishments that may or may not have over served patrons, which led to public hearings. He wanted to make sure that either Brambila or Arechiga will be at the Wakefield restaurant all the time, and that everyone is TIPS certified.
Tequila’s owners, through McGrail, proposed being open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekends.
Selectman Brian Falvey said he didn’t wish for the restaurant to be hamstrung by early closing hours in case at some point in the future it needed to be opened later than 11. Falvey suggested it be open until at least midnight.
Dombroski moved that Tequila’s be allowed to open from 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, which was approved.
The selectmen then okayed an all alcohol license, a Common Victualler license and an Entertainment license (allowing for televisions). They also determined that Tequila’s wold not be detrimental to school or church activities, and wished the owners good luck.
Matthew Maggiore, members of his family and talented chef Anthony Caturano are the principals in CRMG, LLC, which will oversee the Tonno Wakefield restaurant at the seminal Wakefield Station site at 175 North Ave.
Wakefield Station — at the corner of North Avenue, West Water and Armory streets — boasts 60 residential condo units atop a planned restaurant and shops. The Maggiore Companies is developing the site.
McGrail described Wakefield Station as the flagship project under the town’s so-called “railroad bylaw,” part of a smart growth development initiative that puts mixed-use, self-contained facilities within walking distance of a commuter rail system.
The Maggiores, McGrail said, were “very fussy” about who would get the prime commercial space on the ground floor of Wakefield Station. That went to Anthony Caturano’s Tonno restaurant.
Tonno Wakefield (the original is in Gloucester) will have an 87-month lease with various options at Wakefield Station. McGrail explained that Caturano, the 70 percent owner of the restaurant, and the Maggiore family are committed to a $650,000 buildout of the ground floor space where the restaurant will go.
McGrail told the selectmen that Caturano is one of the most respected chefs in the area. His first restaurant, the popular Prezza in the North End, is a destination location for those visiting Boston, and Tonno (Italian for “tuna”) is the same in Gloucester.
Seating at the Tonno Wakefield will be maximum of 215, and that includes an outdoor patio that wraps around a corner of the building at North Avenue and Armory Street.
Falvey could not contain his excitement about Tonno coming to town. He said Prezza on Fleet Street in the North End is “fantastic, and I am personally delighted that someone of (Caturano’s) stature wants to come here.
Answering a question from Dombroski regarding the potential for drunken behavior, Matthew Maggiore said, “We won’t put up with any shenanigans.” The food, he said, will be the primary reason people will come to this upscale restaurant.
Tonno Wakefield plans to serve a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The selectmen then got down to the business of setting hours of operation.
Originally, the group discussed Tonno being open from 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday and 11 a.m. to midnight the rest of the week.
Police Chief Rick Smith, who was in the audience waiting to discuss his department’s budget plan for next year, was asked to comment.
Smith explained that he would like to see all establishments that have all liquor licenses to have the same late closing time.
Selectmen Chairman Paul DiNocco asked Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio if he could get a list compiling the closing times of every eatery serving liquor in Wakefield. “Just because we may have one or two open until 1 a.m., why should they all be open until 1 a.m.?” DiNocco asked.
This prompted Longo to say that in his opinion, 1 a.m. is too late.
Caturano said he didn’t want Tonno to be the last place open at night in town “because that’s when the trouble starts.”
The Tonno public hearing on granting all alcohol, Common Victualler and Entertainment licenses was then open for public comment.
A man who recently bought a home on Armory Street said he had several concerns, including adding customer parking to an already congested neighborhood and noise coming from the outdoor patio.
“I would certainly complain (to the town),” the abuttor said, “if people are out eating and drinking on the patio next to (the Galvin Middle School) and next to all these homes” on Foundry Street.
Falvey said, “We don’t want people out there drinking. The spirit of the restaurant is dining.”
Caturano, who earlier emphasized that he has young children and doesn’t want to be spending all day and night at Tonno, said he want to close the kitchen each evening around 10.
Answering the abuttor, Caturano also said, “We have neighbors above us and a big part of the business plan is to have the community eating inside the restaurant.”
The selectmen voted 6-1 to allow Tonno to open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. the rest of the week. DiNocco abstained.
With Tequila’s owners still in the audience at the WCAT studio, the selectmen then set their closing hour at 1 a.m. too.
Selectman Mehreen Butt said she wanted an update a couple of months after Tonno opens on the level of noise in the area.