By Jonathan Phelps
---- — IPSWICH — The competition is heating up between two restaurant owners for the town’s only available wine and malt liquor license.
Two restaurant owners were slated to make their pitch for the license during a public hearing at the selectmen’s meeting last night, but the hearing was continued until Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. after one of the owners couldn’t make it.
The two applicants are Frank Pellino, owner of Mamma Louisa Cucina & Bar on Central Street, and Mark Macklin, the former owner of Stone Soup who is in the process of opening a new burger joint at 20 Mitchell Road. Pellino told town officials prior to the meeting that he was unable to attend.
Macklin’s restaurant will be called Bunz Burger, according to the application. He declined to comment on the restaurant concept or when it might open when asked after last night’s meeting. He would run the restaurant along with his daughter, Hannah.
Selectmen will have to choose between the two restaurants before making a recommendation to the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. The board must consider the applications “with a view only to serve the public need and in such a manner as to protect the common good,” among other things, according to Massachusetts law.
Each of the applicants will likely be asked a serious of questions from the board during the hearing, including, “How would your establishment receiving the license enhance the community?”
The last time such a license was available in 2012, two restaurants competed for it — Rossini’s Pizzeria and Christopher’s Table. The license was granted to Christopher’s Table, a bakery, cafe and wine bar in Depot Square, according to selectmen’s meeting minutes.
Macklin was given the opportunity to speak before the board last night but declined, saying he’d prefer to wait until the Jan. 21 meeting.
“I don’t want anybody to forget about this at that meeting,” Macklin said.
The license recently became available after the town and state reconciled records regarding available liquor licenses in town, according to Jennifer Breaker, the town manager’s assistant. Apparently, state records showed that one of the town’s wine and malt licenses was tied up by Cafe Zabaglione, which had switched its license to all-alcohol a number of years ago, Breaker said.
Cafe Zabaglione has since closed and is now SALT Kitchen and Rum Bar, which was granted the cafe’s all-alcohol license. Breaker said the town and state recently came to an agreement that the wine and malt license should be made available to a business. All interested business owners were able to apply for the license, she said.
Macklin received permission to open his restaurant from the Zoning Board of the Appeals in September.
Stone Soup opened at the same Mitchell Road location in 1993 before moving to the corner of Central and Market streets. In 2009, the restaurant moved into the building formerly occupied by Marco Polo restaurant on High Street until it closed last month.
“Our intent is to run a small restaurant, similar to the restaurant (Stone Soup) that my wife and I ran from 1993 to 2001,” Macklin wrote in his ZBA application. “We will be mainly a burger and sandwich shop with hours of operation being 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.”
Macklin told the board that the restaurant will have 12 seats and focus mostly on takeout. He said the new restaurant will have a similar setup to Stone Soup.
The owners of The Farm Bar & Grille in Essex plan to transform the former Stone Soup building into an upscale Mexican restaurant under a different name, according to Ryan Cox, co-owner.
Selectmen last night unanimously approved the transfer of Stone Soup’s liquor license to The Farm ownership. The license will include a fenced-in patio out back.
Pellino opened Mamma Luisa Cucina and Bar in the former spot of Rossini’s in May. The Danvers native opened his first restaurant, Pellino’s Fine Italian Dining, in Marblehead in 1992 and moved it to the North End in 2012. He operates both the Ipswich and Boston restaurants.
The restaurant has been selling beer and wine with a seasonal liquor license, which allows businesses to sell between April 1 and Jan. 15.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.