SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 30, 2013

New restaurant fails to materialize

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Most people will sit a long time waiting for a good meal to be served. But not this long.

The Licensing Board is expressing its frustration with the pace of efforts to open a new restaurant, Kelley’s Pub, in the space at Central and Walnut streets previously occupied by Fire Bull restaurant.

“We issued a license to Mr. (John) Mastrangelo,” Chairman Minas Dakos said at the board’s meeting Monday. “He has until the end of August to do something.”

“For sale” signs remain in the windows of the property, and Phil D’Amato, trustee of the real estate trust that owns the property, told the Licensing Board Monday that he is trying to find another tenant. Mastrangelo, whose family operates the well-established Kelley Square Pub in East Boston, had promised to renovate the space and serve the same Italian dishes that have made the other restaurant so popular.

“We started this deal in March,” D’Amato said. “He’s asked for three separate extensions because he couldn’t get the financing.”

Meanwhile, D’Amato has found others interested in the restaurant space, specifically Michael Clukey and Lillian Chalifour, a married couple who have years of experience in the business, starting at Leslie’s Retreat in Salem. They also visited the board, telling of their plans for the place and promising that their financing is all lined up.

“I don’t think we need another pub,” commented a supportive D’Amato. Gesturing to the couple, he added, “This is a family-oriented business that I thought was a good fit.” He also expressed concern about why a well-established restaurateur like Mastrangelo is having so much trouble raising money for the project.

Clukey and Chalifour, however, indicated that they need a liquor license to operate.

“These folks are now interested,” said lawyer Jarrod Hochman, who represents D’Amato. “But it all hinges on a liquor license.”

“It’s a shame if it stays vacant,” Dakos said.

Only a limited number of liquor licenses is available to each city or town, and boards are eager to see that they do not go unused. While unwanted licenses are sometimes sold between private parties for huge sums, Dakos observed that under the law, this one could not be sold as it has never been put into use.

“This not going to go on and on. It can’t,” Dakos said.

In other words, the board could challenge Mastrangelo’s continued possession of the license.

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.