‘Belmont’s’ Conley’s Pub & Grille Sold To A Familiar Face

Photo: Conley’s Pub: Belmont’s favorite bar not in Belmont

A familiar face returns as the new owner of Belmont’s favorite bar not in Belmont, Conley’s Pub & Grille.

Last week, owner Stephen Conley – who opened the bar/restaurant in 2001 – sold the location to JKT Watertown Partners LLC which leased the property to pub entrepreneur Jim O’Rourke. Renovations are reportedly taking place this week “with the possibility of it reopening the following wleek with the same name, concept, and staff,” according to Boston Restaurant Talk.

“That’s a wrap,” Conley wrote on his pub’s Facebook page.

“I simply do not have words for all this has meant to me and my family. It’s hard to put into words,” said Conley. “The community, the staff, the customers. I hope everyone knows I appreciate it all. Like, all of it. I had my name out front. And there’s a commitment to living up to that name. And honoring all that it entails.”

While located at 164 Belmont St. in Watertown, Conley’s has long been the hangout for Belmont residents which have considered the watering hole and eatery its own.

O’Rourke owns the First House Pub in Winchester and The Heights Pub in Arlington Heights and is co-owner of the recently opened Fresh Pond Beer Garden in the Fresh Pond Mall in Cambridge. His locations are described as “family-friendly neighborhood spot[s] that offer comfort food, pub grub, and classic American fare,”

The Arlington native’s connection with Conley’s began more than a decade ago when he started working there part time.

“When Conley’s expanded, the owner asked me to come on full time as a chef/manager. I worked there until First House Pub opened in 2015,” O’Rourke told Your Arlington in 2021. Conley and O’Rourke were co-owners of First House at its opening.

As he “moves on to his next chapter,” Conley had one final comment to convey.

“Thank you Belmont. Thank you Watertown. You’ve been left in incredibly capable hands. See you soon. On the other side of the bar.”

DA IDs Belmont Resident Killed In Watertown Square Pedestrian/Tow Truck Accident

Photo: Location in Watertown of the accident that took the life of a Sycamore Street resident.

The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has identified a Belmont resident as the person killed when a tow truck ran her down just outside Watertown Square on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Benita Horner, 68, of Sycamore Street was pronounced dead at the intersection of Galen and Nonantum streets after Watertown Police responded to a reported road rage incident around 11:20 a.m, said the office of Middlesex DA Marian Ryan.

Horner, who moved to Belmont from Quincy in 2010, listed her occupation as a cashier in the town’s 2018 census. 

She is the second Sycamore Street resident to have died in a vehicle-pedestrian accident. Less than a month ago, Sachi Thanawala, 39, was killed after being hit by a commercial van at the intersection of Lexington and Sycamore streets in Belmont.

Horner’s son, Philip Horner, 38, was arrested at the scene after attacking the tow truck driver, Thomas P. Fogerty, 60, of Quincy, stabbing him five times. The driver is hospitalized in critical condition.

Horner, which press reports said lived in Belmont with his mother, was charged today, Thursday, Sept. 20 in Waltham District Court with armed assault with intent to murder, according to the county DA. He is undergoing a 20-day psychological evaluation at a secure facility.

Belmont Dispatcher’s Heroic Act on Tragic Day In Watertown

Photo: The scene of the fire. (Courtesy Watertown News)

Dave Jones should have been the good news story on a tragic St. Patrick’s Day.

The long-serving Belmont Police dispatcher was off-duty as he and his wife were heading to Donohue’s in Watertown to listen to Irish music on Friday morning, March 14. As the couple of two young boys were on Bigelow Avenue, Jones spotted a house on Merrifield Avenue with heavy smoke and fire coming from the building’s second floor.

“We were just traveling through. Just being in the right place at the right time,” Jones told the Belmontonian on Friday night as he began his shift at Belmont Police Headquarters.

Pulling over to the side of the road, Jones – whose father was a firefighter – jumped out and followed a Watertown Police officer who had just arrived into the burning structure.

Inside the house, Jones found an elderly resident who he brought out of the structure.

In his two-plus decades in public safety, “that’s the closest I have ever been to being a firefighter,” said Jones, who is a familiar figure at Belmont High football games as one of the members of the chain crew.

But should have been a story of selfless heroism by Jones and the Watertown police officer instead became on of the tragic death of Watertown firefighter Joseph Toscano who died of a heart attack battling the two-alarm blaze.

“Rather than me, what everyone has to remember, an old [man] lost a house and the loss of a firefighter,” said Jones, who last week celebrated his 21st year as a dispatcher, the same length of service as Toscano, a father of five from Randolph.

“It didn’t turn out to be the sort of story we all would want it to be,” said Jones.

Belmont Falls Late to Rivals Watertown, 34-28, on Turkey Day

Photo: Ben Jones (center) running during the 4th quarter.

The script was nearly written for a comeback of epic proportions.

Down by six with three minutes remaining in its Thanksgiving game with rival Watertown, the Belmont High School football squad was marching down the field in front of an ecstatic home crowd behind another heroic effort by senior running back Ben Jones and under the steady leadership of four-year starter quarterback Cal Christofori.

Heck, the sun was even peeking through the steel gray overcast seeming to provide the heavenly light to guide the home team to a classic victory.

But a pass thrown ever so slightly skewed to a Belmont receiver was intercepted by Watertown’s defensive back Isaac Huff finishing off the Marauders’ rally as Belmont ended the game on the wrong side of a 34-28 scoreline Thursday, Nov. 24, at Harris Field.

After reaching midseason at 3-3, the Marauders ended 2016 at 4-7, repeating last year’s record.

The loss marks Belmont’s fifth consecutive defeat to the Raiders in the yearly Thanksgiving Day that began in 1921. Watertown now leads the series 47-43 with five ties.

“It was Belmont/Watertown and we knew it was going to be a dogfight and we were pretty confident in our ability to shut these guys down, but we couldn’t shut these guys now,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin.

In a game delayed due to the Watertown squad arriving at Harris Field well past the official start time – despite having to travel a mere 2.5 miles – it was both team’s running backs who stole the show. Jones’ three touchdown performance was matched by Watertown senior Vasken Kebabjian with a trio of his own as both players collected more than 200 yards on the ground.

“Ben Jones is fantastic … [and] is a tremendous athlete and has had a tremendous season but what’s more important to me is that he’s a quality human being and quality man,” said Kumin.

Kebabjian started the scoring early as he ran 47 yards on the right side of Belmont’s defense for the first TD after two and a half minutes of the first quarter to give Watertown the lead, 7-0.

The Raiders doubled the lead with their next procession but only after being aided by the officiating crew whose rulings throughout the game left many on the sidelines and in the stands pondering its collective competence.

After missing an apparent fumble recovered by Belmont on its 36-yard line, Belmont’s Tyler Reynolds was called for pass interference despite being manhandled and thrown to the ground by the Watertown receiver as Reynolds attempted an interception.

On the next play, Raider QB Deon Smith scrambled 24 yards for the TD and a 14-0 lead with a minute left in the first.

Belmont broke through early in the second quarter as Jones broke into the open over his favorite left side of the line and outraced the defenders 45 yards to cut the lead to 14-7.

After apparently holding Watertown on a third down play, a late flag was thrown by the officials for a personal foul against the Marauders to continue their drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal by junior Conor Kennelly to give the visitors a 17-7 lead midway through the second.

Kebabjian scored his second touchdown on a 54 yard run in the final three minutes of the half to extend the lead to 24-7. The half ended after another late flag for a holding penalty was called after Christofori hit junior wide receiver Will Ellet inside the 10-yard line with eight seconds remaining.

At half time, Kumin said “we knew we could play better” and “they came out on fire.”

It didn’t take Belmont long to score as on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter; Jones swept around the left end 71 yards to chip at the lead, 24-13 as Aidan Cadogan’s extra point attempt was blocked.

After a Watertown three and out, Belmont used a combination of Christofori passing and the running attack of Jones and fullback Adam Deese to push Watertown back to its goal. But on two occasions, the officials held up the play during the drive to discuss the location of the ball while forgetting to move the sideline markers “and both times that affected our ability to bring in personnel and our plays to call,” said Kumin.

“[The officials] certainly affected the course of today,” he said.

After Christofori found receiver junior Jake Pollack on a 10-yard pass to the 17, Jones finished the drive on a series of runs, scoring from five yards out with three minutes remaining in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 24-20.

But Watertown would take less than two minutes to score as Kebabjian scored his third long TD run, from 53-yard with a minute left in the quarter.

Belmont struck back quickly in the fourth quarter, first through a diving 25-yard catch by Ellet to the 21-yard line with Deese finishing off the drive with a fourth down dive into the end zone to trim the lead to 31-28 with 7:19 remaining.

But Watertown was soon knocking on the door as Kebabjian had two long runs to bring the ball to the Belmont 7 yard line. But a penalty and Belmont’s defensive line stopped the Raiders at the 9 which forced Kennelly to kick a 28-yard field goal that was partially deflected by Jones who got a hand on it.

Trailing by 6, Belmont took the ball with 3:08 to play at its 33-yard line and marched it down the field to the Watertown 43 yard line with 1:45 remaining before the Huff interception ended the Marauders’ final drive.

Despite the close loss, “I’m not going to hang my head one bit,” said Kumin to his players after the game.

“You took a team that had one win [four] years ago, and in three seasons you are competitive in one of the best leagues in the state. You did that. We did that. What I’m going to remember of this group of young men who had no quit in them, who sacrificed for their brothers no matter what, who played for something more than themselves every single day,” he said.

“I love you guys, and eat your turkey with pride,” said Kumin.

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Weekend Helicopter Mystery Solved: Blame It On Hollywood

Photo: An internet photo of the low-flying helicopter flying over parts of Belmont over the weekend

It was something out of  film “Apocalypse Now”: A low-flying helicopter was buzzing parts of Belmont and neighboring Watertown starting around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2.  For more than an hour, the helicopter would circle over one neighborhood then buzz close to the ground only to hover again.

When residents called into Belmont Police, they were told the copter was “conducting night photography over Belmont.”

Then early Sunday morning, Sept. 4, before 6 a.m. the same helicopter winged its way over the town staying around for more than an hour, waking up many residents who were left asking the same question: what was really going on? Speculation included the flights being part of the airport’s noise abatement program and spraying for mosquitos.

For some Belmontians and other citizens, the truth a bit darker and was not being explained.

“Something isn’t right,” commented Mark McIver on the Belmontonian Facebook page. “I feel the BPD didn’t even know about this bs until they witnessed it and heard complaints.” … “Big brother does whatever he wants and the local boys report what they are told. Wake up people…”

Sounds fishy..” wrote Edward Cartwright. 

Thanks to the Watertown News and its great editor, Charlie Breitrose, the mystery of the low-flying copter has been solved.

And you can blame it on Hollywood.

According to the News, after fielding a substantial number of calls on Friday and Sunday, Watertown Police began an investigation by taking down the identification number of the tail of the helicopter. The ID led to Norwood Airport and the helicopter which is owned by Wings Air, out of White Plains, N.Y.

“We were finally able to track down an employee who told us that they were contracted by CBS Films to do overall air shots for the ‘Patriots Day’ movie,” according to Watertown Police Chief Michael Lawn.

The film, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons (as Watertown Police Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese) and John Goodman, chronicles the events of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the gun battle and manhunt of the Tsarnaev brothers. The film will have a limited release on Dec. 21 with a wide release on Jan. 13, 2017.

And it appears that the production crew may not have had the best understanding of the towns in the region.

“[Wings Air] stated that they filed their flight plan with [Federal Aviation Administration] and also contacted Malden Police Department for some reason but never contacted Watertown PD,” said Lawn. “We expressed our displeasure for this and they were extremely apologetic for causing this alarm and disturbance.”

The good news is that the overhead filming is complete, and the company has returned to New York.

“I will follow up [Tuesday, Sept. 6] with CBS Films and make sure they know how we feel and make sure this does not happen again,” Lawn said.

Cushing Village Sets Latest Deadline While Similar Watertown Project Set to Open

Photo: Similiar in many ways to Cushing The Residence Inn by Marriott nearing completion in Watertown.

The developer of the long-troubled Cushing Village project – the 164,000 sq.-ft. three-building development approved in July 2013 – told the Planning Board Tuesday night, Jan. 5 that he is really, really close to getting all his ducks lined up to begin construction on the $63 million project.

Next month.


Now 30 months behind the initial timeline provided by Chris Starr, head of the development team Smith Legacy Partners, the latest “update” – requested by the Planning Board after Starr’s team missed a “drop dead milestone” of Dec. 18 to purchase the town’s municipal parking lot for $850,000 to begin construction of the first of the three buildings – has Starr asking the town to “stand still” until the board’s next scheduled meeting on Feb. 2 when his team “hopes to inform the board of a loan closing at that meeting.”

In a letter to the board – which was received a few hours before Monday night’s meeting, Jan. 5 – Starr painted yet another rosy picture of the development’s status, similar in tone and optimism made to the town in August 2013, September 2014, and in May, August and December of last year.

Reading the correspondence’s highlights, Board Chair Liz Allison said that while the team didn’t come close to meeting its earlier promises for Dec. 18, “the Cushing Village Development team has achieved significant lender-based milestones and is committed to proceed(ing) expeditiously with a loan closing in the month of January.”

Starr attempted to reassure the board that the project’s major lenders – including lead bank Wells Fargo – are still involved in closing the deal for the municipal lot, telling the board member they can contact the banks to validate his effort to purchase the lot.

Starr also noted that real estate veteran Rod Loring, who has three decades of experience in the residential and commercial sides, has been added to the day-to-day leadership team to work closely with Starr.

It is unknown if this move was an internal change or one suggested by the lenders and other potential partners.

Starr concluded by revealing that the biggest impediment to the closing, a lease modification with a “national” company to join the project, was difficult to do during the holidays.

While Starr would not say whether the firm was a retail operation or a parking lot management firm, he expects to sign up the company “shortly.”

Starr concluded by stating how he wants to work closely with the board as he “remains committed to Cushing Village. The development team is … confident that significant progress will be made over the next month.” He also is requesting an “internal” working group be established with the board – whose meetings will not be advertised to the public – and a weekly “call” to update the town of any progress to these new goals.

While saying the lost Dec. 18 deadline was a “disappointment,” Allison said attempting to close a land deal during the holiday season was, in hindsight, difficult to accomplish.

Yet members were not in such a forgiving mood. While encouraged to hear the developer wants to increase communications with the board and the staff in the Office of Community Development, “action will speak louder than words,” said Raffi Manjikian.

“I’m disappointed that it took until … we arrived at this meeting to see this letter,” said Barbara Fiacco.

“They took a significant amount of time and made a number of promises when they were here asking for an extension. I found that a little frustrating. The residents deserve more transparency,” she said.

The board’s irritation with the continuous delays in the Belmont project since one needs only to look to neighboring Watertown to witness a development that is fast on its way of cutting the opening-day ribbon.

The Residence Inn by Marriott on Arsenal Street across from the Arsenal Mall is similar in design and function to Cushing Village. The six-story extended-stay hotel has 150 rooms with kitchen area and work space, 115 underground parking spaces and first-floor retail space.

The significant difference with Cushing Village is that the Residence Inn is nearing completion. Despite receiving the OK from Watertown to commence development in late 2014, the project – developed by the experienced team at Boylston Properties – is expected to open to the public in the late spring/summer, generating tax revenue and hotel fees to Watertown.

Watertown Brothers Arrested in Belmont on Drug Charges

Photo: Police arrest pair in Belmont.

Two Watertown brothers were arrested in Belmont this past Friday and charged with possession and distribution of a variety of drugs.

On Friday, Aug. 7, Belmont detectives assigned to the Suburban Middlesex County Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at 31 Thayer Rd. in Watertown, according to Belmont Police Asst. Chief James MacIsaac.

Immediately following the search at the address, the detectives arrested Daniel McDonough, 20, on Trapelo Road in Belmont. At the time of his arrest, McDonough, of 31 Thayer Road, was in the possession of an estimated three grams of heroin.

Also arrested was Daniel’s brother, Thomas J. McDonough, 24, of the same address. Both were charged with possession to distribute a variety of drugs including heroin,

Public Meeting on Logan Noise Set for Dec. 3

A public meeting to update residents of Belmont and Watertown on the increase in noise over the communities from aircraft departing Logan Airport will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at  Belmont Town Hall.

Representatives from both communities on the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee (Logan CAC) will host a public meeting to discuss the activities being taken in response to the changes in runway usage and resulting increase in noise over Belmont and Watertown.

In the summer of 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration allowed changes to the flight pattern of aircraft departing from runway 33L which have led to significant increases in noise complaints from Belmont and Watertown residents.

This will be an informational meeting so community members with specific noise complaints should direct them to the Massachusetts Port Authority Noise Abatement Hotline online or by calling 617-561-3333 on weekday days from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.


The meeting is expected to be attended by state Reps Jonathan Hecht (Watertown) and David Rogers (Belmont) state Sen. William Brownsberger as well as a member of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark’s staff. Clark has been working with other Congressional Representatives as part of the Quiet Skies Caucus to advocate with the FAA on noise-related issues.

A New CVS Coming to … Watertown

CVS Pharmacy, the Woonsocket, RI-based nationwide drug store chain, has announced it will be opening a new store they see serving the retail and pharmacy needs of a good portion of Belmont residents.

But the second largest US pharmacy concern will be locating its newest store across the border in Watertown, on Mt. Auburn Street, not in the Town of Homes.

The announcement made on the Watertown News website will please Belmont residents in the southeastern part of town (precincts 6 and 7) who have store located at the corner of Mt. Auburn and Arlington streets, across from the Tufts Health Plan offices. Watertown’s Arlington Street intersects with Belmont Street at Grove Street.

The new store will be 14,000 sq.-ft. with approximately 70 parking spaces, replacing a gas station, the city’s Elks Club and another commercial building.

How the new Watertown store will affect the long-standing rumor of CVS looking to move from its current cramped location at 60 Leonard St. – the store has a total of 8,000 sq.-ft. with a smaller retail footprint – to a larger outcrop in the former Macy’s site at 75 Leonard St. remains up in the air.

After serving Belmont for more than 70 years, first as a Filene’s and later Macy’s, the department store closed in January 2013. Somerville-based Locatelli Realty Trust owns the Macy’s site as well as a good portion of eastern Leonard Street.

A second Belmont CVS is located at 264 Trapelo Rd. between Cushing and Central squares.

Under CVS criteria for new stores, the company requires locations to be free-standing sites with the store being roughly 100 by 140 feet with approximately 13,000 square feet of retail and pharmacy space. It must also be in a high traffic location, have easy access from the street for customers and have between 75 to 85 parking spaces.

The second store in Watertown – the chain has a 24-hour store in Watertown Square – will have the draw of plenty of parking spaces and easy access, both which the Belmont Center store lacks. CVS has a second 24-hour store down Concord Avenue at Fresh Pond in Cambridge.