Al Fresco Dining Returning To Belmont Center But Only Three Restaurants Want Spaces

Photo: Il Casale is one of three restaurants seeking sidewalk dining this summer in Belmont Center

A hubbub is happening in Boston’s North End where restaurant owners and their employees are upset that certain historic neighborhoods like theirs face more restrictions and limits on outdoor summertime dining than other less frequented parts of the city.

There are no such complaints from eateries in Belmont as the Select Board approved earlier in March al fresco dining on sidewalks and in designated parking spaces walled off by jersey barriers along Leonard Street.

But unlike Boston where there’s a voluminous number of applications for sidewalk and curbside space, Belmont Center has seen a dramatic drop in spaces being set aside for dining from 15 last year to just six this coming summer, according to Glen Clancy, town engineer.

The biggest impact on space requests is the recent closure of the popular Trinktisch Beer Hall and from eateries that don’t feel the need to have an outdoor option, said Clancy.

Two of the eateries, sister establishments il Casale and the Wellington, have reduced their ask to just two parking slots each as “they want to have a more impactful look to their spaces,” said Deran Muckjian, owner of Toy Shop of Belmont, and president of the Belmont Center Business Association.

The other eatery seeking added space is Stone Hearth Pizza. There will be one dedicated area in Cushing Square for Savinos Grill on Common Street and the town will support a request from Watertown’s Conley’s Pub since the roadway up to the restaurant’s curb is located in Belmont.

Muckjian said early in the year he sought feedback from merchants and restaurants “and everyone is comfortable” with the smaller plan for outdoor dining.

Unlike past years, the establishments will be footing the bill installing, then removing the jersey barriers.

In addition, the season has been reduced from the Mothers’ Day weekend in May to Sept. 15.

Al fresco dining was established in 2020 as an attempt by the town to assist restaurants which found their indoor dining areas shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first year, Leonard Street became a single lane, one-way road – from Alexander Ave. to Channing Road – with much of the curbside set aside for chairs and tables.

But from the start, many of the Center’s brick and mortar retail businesses were less than pleased losing about two dozen parking spaces in front of their establishments. In the subsequent years, Leonard would return to a two-way road and the number of dining spaces reduced at the urging of storefront retailers.

Menorah Lighting Set For 6 PM Saturday, Dec. 9 In Belmont Center

Photo: Menorah lighting on Saturday, Dec. 9 in Belmont Center

Come together for a meaningful menorah-lighting ceremony with music, songs, and community at the Center for Jewish Life Arlington-Belmont’s third annual Belmont Public Menorah Lighting on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The lighting occurs at the delta green space in front of the M&T Bank branch in Belmont Center.

Sufganiyot, latkes and other Chanukah treats will be served.

Santa’s Visiting Belmont To ‘Turn On The Town’ This Thursday, Nov. 30

Photo: Jolly ‘Ol Saint Nick with a dog

Santa Claus continues each year to find his way back to Belmont. And this year, ol’ St. Nick will visit Belmont Center on Thursday, Nov. 30, for the annual “Turn on the Town” festivities from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The night’s highlight will be when Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on Leonard Street at 6:15 p.m., riding on top of one of Belmont Fire Department’s engines. After stepping off the equipment, Santa will flip the switch on the Center’s holiday lights on a tree donated by the Belmont Lions Club, which will be adjacent to Bellmont Cafe.

Santa will then move down Leonard Street to the M&T Bank branch – the former Belmont Savings Bank – where he and the Mrs. will greet their most significant constituency: children. Parents will get the opportunity to take photos with the jolly old man. Santa will give good boys and girls candy canes and a promise to bring that special present on Dec. 24. Bad children must attend the town’s Budget Summit II at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

“Punishment enough,” said Santa.

Leonard Street will be closed, and family and friends are invited to gather and enjoy the holiday lights, meet with Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, listen to Belmont High School’s amazing Madrigal Singers, and enjoy some fried treats. Local business members of the Belmont Center Business Association organize the night’s events.

‘Our Last Chapter’: Trinktisch, Craft Beer Cellars Closing New Year’s Eve As Owners Failed To Find Buyers

Photo: The location of Trinktisch and Craft Beer Cellars in Belmont Center

It was a sad day when the news was revealed in August that Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker, the co-founders of Craft Beer Cellar and Trinktisch European Food Hall on Leonard Street in Belmont Center, were putting their local businesses up for sale.

And while it appeared the two landmark retail operations would-likely continue with new owners, the reality was announced in a social media post on Nov. 1 that both the store and restaurant will be closing for good on the last day of the year, Dec. 31.

The $1,080,000 price tag on the flagship store in the Craft Beer Cellar franchise universe with its thousands of loyal customers and the restaurant which has become a lively family destination known for its German entries and beer combinations, was too much for “a local individual, family, or group, to pick up where we will leave off,” said Schalow in August.

The headwinds preventing the sales were several: the long lasting negative impacts of the global pandemic the beer industry, retail, and restaurants, alike, on-going staffing challenges, and finally “irreconcilable differences with our landlord, which has ultimately dissolved any parties interest in purchasing our businesses, as we had hoped.”

“Time has run its course and now it’s time for us to live our last chapter,” said the couple on social media.

Thirteen years since opening a concept of selling craft beef from a narrow storefront on Leonard Street that developed into a nation wide franchise, Schalow and Baker discovered that more than a decade “without a real vacation or traveling,” running a franchise from a basement office, then adding a restaurant – a dream for the partners – took a significant toll.

“We are simply tired and ready to change gears, and feel certain that now is the time to make this change in our lives,” they said.

Schalow and Baker wanted their patrons, guests and fellow Belmont residents to know “it wasn’t you” that made their decision.

“[Y]ou’ve been wonderful and if not for YOU we would have never made it 13 lovely years!” they said. “We are so humbled to have been members of the Belmont, Belmont Business, and Belmont Center Communities for these years. We are ever grateful for your continued support, positivity, love, and friendship.”

“While not the outcome we had envisioned, we intend to enjoy our final two months of operation and will hope that we see you as often as possible, as we wrap up both businesses,” they said.

“Rest assured that we will keep working hard to provide the best in beer, wine, food, and hospitality, until the very end.”

As a coda, Schalow and Baker said they not leaving Belmont, nor will they be leaving the beer industry as they will continue to build the Craft Beer Cellar franchise brand while keeping busy visiting places, judging beers, write books, and make many more contributions to the beer universe.

“We have given our heart and soul to our businesses and now it’s time to take a step back, stay grateful for our experiences, and forge a new trail ahead,” they said.

Touch-A-Truck Returns For A Second Year On Oct. 7 In Belmont Center

Photo: Living the dream at last year’s Touch-a-Truck event in Belmont.

It’s back: The second annual Belmont Touch-a-Truck event is on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bulldozers, snow plows, garbage trucks, police vehicles and motorcycles, fire and EMT apparatus, and a whole assortment of large vehicles will be open for children – and their parents – to climb into and explore at the Claflin Street Parking Lot in Belmont Center.

“Last year it exceeded all our expectations, the honking notwithstanding,” said Stephen Rosales, formerly of the Belmont Select Board and a member of the board of Belmont Youth Activities, who is sponsoring the event along with the town’s D.A.R.E. chapter.

“But honking [the vehicles’ horn] is what all the kids and some of the adults wanted to do, quite frankly,” Rosales told the Select Board at a recent meeting.

According to Rosales, talks are also underway with the Belmont Lion Club to have a mobile eye examination clinic that can test kids’ vision in 30 seconds to detect early signs of problems.

Attendees can expect refreshments – it was hot dogs and water last year – and there was a request from the Select Board.

“Stephen, can Touch-a-Truck include touching a food truck? That would be good too,” said Board Chair Roy Epstein.

From Banking To Beaujolais: New Owner Of Belmont Center Beer And Wine Store Set To Open

Photo: Roxana Lemus, the owner of Belmont Wine and Beer in the former Cuvee Fine Wines on Leonard Street in Belmont Center

Ever since she came to the United States as a 10-year-old from El Salvador, Roxana Lemus was looking to take the

“It has always been a dream of mine to become a business owner,” Lemus told the Belmontonian.

And sometime this summer, Lemus will realize her goal when she opens the doors to Belmont Wine and Beer, in the location of the former Cuvee Fine Wines at 32 Leonard St. in Belmont Center.

The new Belmont Wine and Beer store on Leonard Street

“I am very happy about the opportunity that I see now,” said Lemus, after the Select Board approved her request for an off-premises beer and wine liquor license in March. The license was the existing one for the location, being surrendered by Gandbhir Swapnil who purchased the former Vintages: Adventures in Wine store in August 2016.

For the past several years, Lemus was moving up the retail banking ladder at Rockland Trust, as branch manager of its East Boston office on Meridian Street. It was when she recently purchased a house in Marlborough that Lemus said to herself, “it’s about time that I get to own my own business that was closer to my home.” Her search took her to Belmont where she discovered the long-established business was up for sale.

“I was first very, very tentative but then I knew this is what I’m looking for. So it was about time for me to step up and become a business owner,”, said Lemus.

While her primary goal is to continue the success of the business, Lemus also wants to get to know and support the Belmont populace.

“I want everyone to know me more than just a business owner. I want people to know me as Roxanna, that she’s part of the community.”

Belmont Center Will Be Home To A Menorah For The Holiday Season

Photo: It’s menorah time in Belmont Center

Belmont Center will be home to a Hanukkah menorah as the Belmont Select Board unanimously approved on Dec. 5 having a public display of the chanukkiyah over the eight nights of the holiday.

The first lighting will occur on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the delta in from of M&T Bank. It is open to the Belmont community with dreidels, donuts and menorahs for the public.

The menorah will stay on the delta with an additional candle – it is an electrical candelabrum – is lit until the final candle lights up on Sunday, Dec. 25.

Luna Bukiet, co-founder at Center for Jewish Life of Arlington-Belmont, told the board there was a really nice showing last year – even though it was a ”very last minute event” – “so much so that community members and Belmont members have been asking us already if we were planning to do this again.”

“It’s cool. I support that,” said Board Chair Mark Paolillo.

Comella’s Leaving Belmont Center Location For New Home At Former Loading Dock Site

Photo: The current site at 43 Leonard St.

One of Belmont Center’s largest and most popular eateries will be leaving its Leonard Street storefront this fall for its new home on the Cambridge/Belmont line.

At its Monday, July 11 meeting, the Belmont Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a special permit for a fast food license to the owners of Comella’s Restaurant to allow them to move the eatery known for its Italian cuisine and pizza to the former site of the Loading Dock at 11 Brighton St.

Attorney Stephen B Rosales, who represented the Comella family, told the board that after 10 successful years leasing the 43 Leonard St. location, the had to opportunity to purchase the property at 11 Brighton St. … which will ”cement and control their future here in town.” Rosales said the owners ”have applied to basically operate the same way and in the same manner as they have” at their current site.

”Same menu, same pizza. At $6.99, it’s a great deal,” said Rosales.

The loss of Comella’s will be a blow to Belmont Center which has seen the number of empty storefronts grow since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Located at the former home of The Loading Dock restaurant, the new site will have 60 seats with 48 at tables and 12 at the bar. Under Belmont zoning requirements, the site will have 30 parking spaces, with 12 out in front, 10 permitted spaces across Brighton at the F. A. Williams’ property and nine off street.

The Comellas’ will soon seek a transfer of the beer and wine license it has at the Leonard Street store. A minimum build out will be required and the new site will be open in the fall. As part of the permit, the board restricted outdoor seating at the site even though the restaurant’s patio is private property, as opposed to town-owned sidewalk on Leonard Street.

Emma Thurston of Baker Street said the proposed new site – which is a block from her house – has been empty for a really long time, and since Comella’s is a household favorite, ”we’d be very happy to add them to the community over here” as it will become “a strong [business] anchor” along with Hillside Gardens in the area.

Belmont Farmers Market Opens For The Season Thursday, June 2; 2 PM to 6:30 PM

Photo: Scenes from the Belmont Farmers Market

Belmont Farmers Market opens for the 2022 season on Thursday, June 2 at 2 p.m. with its traditional fanfare, ringing of the market bell and a ribbon cutting at its home in the rear of the Claflin Street Municipal Parking Lot just off Belmont Center.

The market, run by the Belmont Food Collabrative, will be open on Thursday afternoons from June to October from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with closing times at 6 p.m. in October.

This season, the Market is asking patrons to bring their brown paper shopping bags with handles along with non-perishable food donations when shopping at the market to the manager’s tent, and they will be donated to the Belmont Food Pantry.

Opening Day includes the market’s Food Assistance Information Fair. Meet representatives of local and state-wide agencies who’ll have info about how people facing food insecurity can stretch food budgets.

In 2021, our food assistance program added more than $37,000 to the budgets of shoppers who are facing food insecurity.

The Information Fair will help people learn about their eligibility for food programs. But we want everyone to know about these programs. Even in Belmont, often thought of as a very prosperous town, there are many people who need assistance to buy enough healthy food for their families.

Read the full press release about the Information Fair. And find out more about our food assistance programs.

Community & Events Tent Preview

2 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Inaugural Food Assistance Information Fair
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Performers A & W Ukulele Players
4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Storytime
4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Henna Art with Niyathi Srinivasan

Open/Closed In Belmont Center: CVS Opens In New Location; Bank America Closing In June [Update]

Photo: The new location of CVS/Pharmacy next to Trinktisch

Two established businesses in Belmont Center are on the move.

CVS/Pharmacy officially opens this week – although hastily placed signs continue to say it is not open – in its new location adjacent to Trinktisch across Leonard Street from its former site. The move which was anticipated since last year leaves the former location at 60 Leonard St. vacant, adding to the number of empty storefronts in Belmont’s main business center.

Still not open.

And that number will grow when the Bank of America Financial Center at 72 Leonard St. closes the branch and the ATM for good on June 19, according to Belmont Center Business Association President Gerry Dickhaut.

“I don’t know what’s going in there, but I know the landlords are looking at possible tenants,” said Dickhaut, saying he’d prefer to see a retail store that will increase foot traffic to the center, ”like a telephone store or a shoe store.”