The zoning laws, adopted nearly 30 years ago, prohibit bars and restaurants from serving alcohol unless the customer also orders food, and also restrict business hours and live entertainment. Only two businesses---Freeman's Little New York and the Seasons Bistro and Wine Bar in the Atlantica Hotel---are exempt from the restrictions, because those businesses were grandfathered into the 1980s-era zoning laws.
The Nail & Kneecap Pub and Quincy's Restaurant, now both closed, had applied for lounge licences in 2006. The Nail & Kneecap closed before the matter was resolved, but Quincy's was successful, and that licence has been inherited by Athens Restaurant, which moved into the space earlier this year.
Now, Mezza and Rock Island Café are preparing to apply for lounge licences.
The Quinpool Road Business Association is helping both restaurants navigate the complexities of zoning and liquor laws, says general manager Karla Nicholson. "Our businesses should be able to compete with other restaurants in the downtown core who can offer their customers a glass of wine or invite them to listen to some music with a drink after dinner," she says." We are not looking to expand our business hours but we would like to be able to expand the level of service we are able to give to our customers."
The general opinion is that the entire area needs to be re-zoned to allow lounge licences, so that merchants don't have to individually jump through the bureaucrat hoops.