DRACUT -- For patrons of Back to the Boathouse restaurant, formerly known as Deb's Lakeview Lounge, their view of Lake Mascuppic is about to improve dramatically after a divided Board of Selectmen voted to approve an expanded liquor license for an outdoor deck the owner plans to add to her business.
The selectmen's 3-1 vote granting Boathouse owner A.J. Leaver's permission to serve food and alcohol on an attached rear deck drew cheers from a packed Harmony Hall meeting comprised largely of supporters of the lakeside restaurant.
The vote proved to be the most controversial action in a busy three-hour meeting during which the board also approved a liquor-license application from the Four Oaks Country Club, formerly known as Meadow Creek, as new owners Peter and Tina Niarhos, and Mike and Cynthia Kuenzler unveiled their plans to do $500,000 worth of renovations to the golf course's clubhouse.
In the board's discussion preceding the Boathouse vote, Selectman John Zimini, who cast the lone dissenting vote, chastised Chairwoman Cathy Richardson for having changed her mind on the issue. Zimini noted that at Town Meeting in June, residents voted overwhelmingly to reject a zoning change that would have permitted Leaver to build a deck to the "neighborhood side" of the building.
Richardson noted the Town Meeting vote in June was taken on a very different deck proposal that had been submitted by Leaver asking to attach a deck to the side rather than rear of her business, which would have required a zoning change from residential to business.
"Since our last meeting on this in August, I have had only one individual speak to me about concerns about parking, and I have been assured (the Boathouse) will respect that particular business owner's parking lot and property," said Richardson. "My own concerns have been satisfied. I do feel the new deck plan has taken into consideration the concerns of the abutters."
Zimini countered that by Richardson's words, "Town Meeting made it clear it opposed any outside deck, period," Zimini. "I am not changing my vote."
Joe DiRocco and George Malliaros joined Richardson in voting in favor of expanding the Boathouse's liquor license. Selectman Robert Cox, who owns Coyle's bar in town, abstained from the vote.
"I'm thrilled," said Leaver after the vote. "It was never my intention to open it late and play music. It was always just to make a place to sit outside, enjoy the view, and have some food and a couple of beers with friends. The intention was to expand the food-serving business more than anything."
Leaver said the outdoor deck will have a capacity for eight tables, serving up to 32 people.
In other action, former state Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, acting as the attorney for Four Oaks, said renovations are going to cost the four owners $400,000 plus a $100,000 "startup cost."
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Selectmen also voted to accept the resignation of Dracut Library Director Randy Robertshaw, who is leaving in three weeks to pursue a job in the private sector, Town Manager Dennis Piendak reported.