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November 19, 2013

Beverly council backs lease

Mayor authorized to sign deal for waterfront restaurant

BEVERLY — City councilors last night voted in favor of a lease between the city and the Black Cow restaurant, a significant step in the grueling process to bring a waterfront restaurant to the city.

By a 6-3 vote, the City Council authorized Mayor Bill Scanlon to enter into a 40-year agreement with restaurant owner Joseph Leone to build a Black Cow on city-owned land near the Beverly-Salem bridge.

Some councilors contended that the city is getting the short end of the deal in the transaction, while others argued that a decision should be put off until Mayor-elect Mike Cahill and a new City Council take office in January.

But a majority of the board ultimately decided to give Scanlon permission to make a deal, saying residents have waited long enough for a waterfront restaurant, which Leone first proposed in 2006.

“People want a waterfront restaurant,” Councilor Jason Silva said. “We’ve got this beautiful waterfront, and we don’t have one place to eat. I see this as a great opportunity for the city.”

The proposed lease calls for Leone to pay the city $30,000 a year to lease the land, which has been occupied by a vacant former McDonald’s restaurant for 20 years. Leone has said he will spend $3 million to build a restaurant similar to the one he owns on the Newburyport waterfront.

Beverly Port Marina owner Frank Kinzie, who spoke before councilors voted, called the $30,000 in rent money “absurdly low” and said the lease is a “very bad deal for Beverly.”

But Mayor Bill Scanlon said the city has requested proposals for the property six times over the years and Leone’s is the only one that would not require the city to invest its own money.

“Your approval,” Scanlon told councilors, “is the best possible gift we can give to the new mayor, the new councilors and the city.”

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