SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 25, 2013

Liquor license for restaurant returns to city

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — The Licensing Board has acknowledged a big step toward reopening the restaurant location that once housed the Fire Bull.

But if you’re hungry, don’t wait on this one. It may take awhile, as one would-be restaurateur has returned his liquor license while another is hoping to obtain it.

Earlier this year, John Mastrangelo won the license on the basis of his plan to expand Kelly’s Square Pub in East Boston to the former Fire Bull at Central and Walnut streets in Peabody. But as the months passed, the “For Sale” sign remained in the Fire Bull windows, and nothing was done to prepare for the new operation. Late last month, property owner Phil D’Amato appeared at a board meeting to complain that Mastrangelo didn’t seem to have his financing. He touted two new people, husband and wife Michael Clukey and Lillian Chalifour, as a better bet for new owners of both the restaurant and the all-alcohol license.

Licensing Board Chairman Minas Dakos declared that he would summon Mastrangelo and seek the return of the unused license. This raised the possibility of a protracted battle to get the license back. Instead, Dakos announced Monday night that Mastrangelo contacted him by phone and simply agreed to send it.

“He indicated things didn’t work out,” said the chairman. “And he is a gentleman. So, he’s sending the license back to the city.” Mastrangelo also stressed that despite any suggestions to the contrary, “He did everything he was supposed to do with Mr. D’Amato.” That included asking for three extensions.

Reopening a restaurant in this very visible location is an important part of the city’s effort to revitalize the downtown. But despite the fact both Clukey and Chalifour were at Monday’s meeting, it will take some time before they can be considered for the now-vacant license.

“We have to put an ad in the paper and let other people know about it,” board member Nancy Delaney told them.

But that can’t happen until Mastrangelo returns the license, member Fred Murtagh said.

“We have to make sure it’s a fair and level playing field,” Dakos said.

Clukey and Chalifour are currently wrapping up a season managing food service at Marblehead’s Dolphin Yacht Club. Both have experience in restaurants, including 17 years at Leslie’s Retreat in Salem. To operate successfully in Peabody Square, Chalifour said after the meeting, “We need the liquor license.”

Despite the wait, Clukey expressed relief that the license will be available. “Now we can move forward.”