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South Boston bar can expand - but officials warn it needs to curb loud, fighty patrons

The Zoning Board of Appeal today approved plans by the Playwright, 658 East Broadway, to expand its capacity and add residential units on floors above it - but board members said they are concerned by complaints from nearby residents about boisterious, often angry customers, especially at closing time.

The Playwright plans to double its floor size and expand its capacity from 175 to 275 people, in part by demolishing an adjoining building at 654 East Broadway, and to add a total of five new residential units to the three that already exist.

Although some South Boston residents praised the bar and its owners for their contributions to South Boston groups, people who live directly near the bar recited horror stories of fights and public urination at closing time and at the noise during operating hours.

Co-owner Joey Arcari and his attorney, John Pulgini said some of the changes the expansion would bring would address many of the issues: Windows would be closed more frequently, a new vestibule would reduce the "blast" of noise that now emerges whenever somebody enters or leave and the band area, now in the front of the bar, would be moved to the rear. Pulgini added that doubling the floor space, but not capacity, would also help to dilute noise issues.

The board voted 6-1 to approve the expansion - but with the caveat that BPDA designers work closely with the bar to ensure it really does minimize issues for neighbors.

Board Chairwoman Christine Araujo said it was nice people across South Boston supported the bar, but said she was particularly concerned about the direct neighbors. "It's the direct abutters who have a great deal to lose in their quality of life," she said. "The goal has to be that they are comfortable living in their own space and neighborhood."

Board members Edward Devau and Mark Erlich agreed. "It's a quality of life issue," Devau said. "The issue of accommodating concerns of operating a noisy, loud business in the middle of a residential neighborhood are primary," Erlich said. "I think you need to go above and beyond."

Board member Mark Fortune suggested the Playwright hire a police detail to keep the knuckleheads under control. As a West Roxbury resident, he compared the Playwright to his neighborhood's Corrib Pub - although he acknowledged the Corrib does not have live music.

"We will be keeping an eye out," Araujo said.

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Sure, they threw some new paint on the walls but that place will always be a magnet for the surly and bitter Southie remainers.

Voting closed 18

On one hand I can sympathize with the neighborhood. I've lived above a bar before and it's not fun. However, the Playwright has been there a lot longer than these have and you know what you were getting into when you paid $900k to live in a bar. It's not like the Playwright or it's clientele have popped up overnight. You can't complain about a bar being too loud in Southie when you.... decided to move next to a loud bar in Southie.

Voting closed 34

the long time residents who live across the street and behind the bar. They’ve been there longer than the Playwright. There are some yuppies who bought at the Old Italian American restaurant who aren’t too happy.

Voting closed 14

Old time southie residents complain about "yuppies"

There's a breaking news headline.

Voting closed 0

... every right to complain. Noise ordinances apply to everyone. There’s no exception just because your business has been operating longer than your neighbors have resided next to you.

Voting closed 33

When you can’t control your ground-floor bar, how will you control two floors of bars? Time for an enema at the ZBA. Get some neighborhood people on the board.

Voting closed 24

Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams up to their usual tricks.

Voting closed 11

Speaking of Eugene....he's still vacant at Forest Hills. What ever happened?

Voting closed 4

On how long before people who move into the new residential units above complain about the noise from their downstairs neighbor.

I'm feeling generous and give it 9-12 months.

Voting closed 22

he compared the Playwright to his neighborhood's Corrib Pub

really? every time I've been in corrib it's greyhairs and neighborhood families. does it really get that rowdy?

Voting closed 20

In order to secure a permit.... oopsies on us for not addressing the issues previously and with success xoxo

Voting closed 16

“ but with the caveat that BPDA designers work closely with the bar to ensure it really does minimize issues for neighbors.”

Surely they jest. Since when has the BPDA ever been concerned with the neighbors of projects it approves?

Voting closed 31


Voting closed 7

This is another example of the ZBA’s desire to make City life intolerable for people living there to the point that nobody will live in the city for more than three years at a shot. They already admit that they can’t run an orderly establishment at its current size. Does the ZBA think they’ll do better when the size of the place is increased? They’re (the ZBA) doing everything they can to drive out long-time residents in favor of the younger people, most of whom have no plan to stay for too long. Who benefits from this? The realtors; a new first, last, and security deposit every month. The same property turns over it’s ownership every three to five years. This only benefits the realtors. The realtors now have more money to pay off ZBA members and local politicians. The residents get screwed again. What is the ZBA comprised of? Realtors, developers, architects, and speculators, who all stand to profit from the decisions they make at this agency. The ZBA has long been the most corrupt aspect of city government.

Voting closed 34

I have heard from the owner....... I won't open the bistro windows if all the other bars on Broadway agree to do the same. How about not installing them in the first place?

Voting closed 12

We don't live in California or somewhere where there is more than 5 days a year for open windows. The other 360 days of the year you want them closed to preserve energy used by the HVAC [either heating or cooling]. Plus, having them open doubles the number of flies that get in and dive bomb you at your table.

Voting closed 10

You've probably has never stepped foot in the Playwright. The place has it's flaws but in the spring and summer the open windows there are really nice and definitely give the neighborhood a more lively and welcoming vibe.

Voting closed 7

Where do you live? It's nice enough to have the windows open for most of May until October at least unless it's raining sideways. It doesn't have to be 80 and sunny to be nice enough out.

Voting closed 1

Make the bar bigger, add more neighbors and things will get better?

Voting closed 2