Doug Noble is trying… trying really hard, in fact.
The owner of at 560 Tremont has been making the Neighborhood Association rounds for a few months in relation to his bid for extended hours. Last week, to 1 a.m., seemingly in any format (i.e. not for seven nights, not for weekends… just ‘not at all’).
But Noble is a businessman and he’s not so easily deterred, as was evident when he presented his case to the Union Park Neighborhood Association Tuesday night.
And for the first time since this debate began, he saw a glimmer of hope.
With right-hand-man John Gould alongside, Noble plainly laid out the developments to the group including some important bits of back story about ending his relationship with his prior head chef and business partner, Felino Samson. Until formally parting ways with Samson at the beginning of this year, Noble said he’d been letting his partner run the show. Upon taking over full-time, however, he discovered that Samson (apparently) hadn’t been living up to the expectations of residential neighbors.
“I trusted my previous partner,” Noble said. “I was new to this business at the time, whereas he had 15 years of experience behind him. I think it just became too much for him to handle…”
He briefly discussed the contentious meetings with the Eight Streets group and again passed around handouts detailing recent procedural changes he’s made. But he also expressed some relief in knowing that the concerns of the abutters who'd previously spoken out had more to do with -- as was revealed last week -- preserving the perceived integrity of the neighborhood as a whole. It's not necessarily about a specific 'beef' with Pops, as it had seemed up until that point.
“I’d like to hear from people here if that’s how they feel,” he said. “I don’t live here – but I have many friends who do that don’t agree with the notion that the character of the neighborhood is in danger of shifting."
Noble gently reminded the group that he’s not alone in asking for this concession and is merely trying to establish a level playing field on which to conduct business. , located just across Tremont Street, has a closing time of 2 a.m. seven days a week.
Noble has amended his request to only cover an extension of hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
"I’m just a businessman trying to put myself on a similar footing with the other restaurants in the area so I can fairly compete with them," he said.
UPNA President Jerry Frank expressed sympathy with Nobel's position, noting that many other restaurants in the area are not surrounded on three sides by residential properties.
“I’m not sure this is a quid pro quo issue," Frank said. "Unfortunately you’re a bit of a victim."
Over the course of discussion, however, several residents said they would support the extension (the three-night version) and were impressed with Noble’s attention to the neighborhood’s concerns.
Noble also revealed during the Q&A that he has no plans to extend the restaurant further into the backyard or to open up the greenhouse area, thus relieving any festering worries about loud, late-night garden parties. He said, in fact, that his staff isn’t supposed to open the back door much past 9 p.m.
“On the one hand, we’ve heard this before,” one neighbor said. “But the handout looks like you’ve really worked on the situation. To me, this is a thing about trust – and when the story changes every year, I don’t have trust in you… You have to convince me there’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s not Dean Martin the Drunk, but rather Jimmy Stewart the Stalwart.”
One woman voiced concerns about ‘Restaurant Row’ becoming ‘Barroom Alley,’ mirroring the Eight Streets tone, and pointed out that if UPNA supports the request it will put the group in direct opposition to a fellow neighborhood association.
Another suggestion that was made--which, should the extension be granted-- would require Noble to meet with abutters every three months to monitor the situation, something he said he was completely open to doing.
“These relationships are important to us,” Noble said. “I’m just glad no new issues are being brought to my attention tonight. Pops is a very local restaurant; it’s not a suburban customer destination spot. Our neighbors keep us in business, not folks from Newton and Brookline.”
According to Frank, due process requires at least a week’s notice for a formal vote. Since the group had believed they would be voting on a seven day extension, there could be no decision made on a three-day extension.
Noble opted to withdraw his request and will likely seek a vote for the Thursday-Saturday extension at next month’s UPNA meeting… stay tuned.