Trap and Safehouse Owner Buys Besos

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Town Council Monday night approved the transfer of the Besos liquor, victualing and entertainment license from Kristin and Mike Della Grotta to TJ Martucci, owner of Forge Road restaurants Safehouse and The Trap.

Simultaneously, Besos restaurant manager Dana Wronski is leaving the restaurant at the end of the month. Wronski, a singer when she’s not working in restaurants,  is moving to Nashville.

“It was the right time and he was the right person to take the restaurant to the next level,” said Della Grotta Monday.

Martucci said he wasn’t planning big changes for the restaurant and, in fact, was working with Wronski to make sure there is a smooth transition. The staff and head chef are staying put, he said.

Martucci said he’d admired Besos for a while.

“If all the restaurants on Main Street were for sale, I would still choose Besos,” said Martucci.

Wronski said the decision to leave Besos and East Greenwich has been bittersweet.

“I am very blessed to have been a part of this unique and wonderful experience at Besos,” she said. “Kristin and Mike’s goal was to create a beautiful place in the town where the hospitality is paramount and the offerings are delicious and creative – a place that makes a positive impact not just within the four walls, but out in the community as well. I believe we succeeded and for that, I am very proud. And I’m confident in handing the reins over to TJ.”

Wronski added, “I will forever cherish my days at 378 Main Street and most certainly miss my precious restaurant family and loyal guests. Thank you for the love everybody!”



 

Main Street Stroll Schedule Mixes It Up This Year

Dog Stroll takes place May 31 while Chalk a Block contest has moved to July. 

East Greenwich, R.I. – The East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce has announced its Main Street Stroll schedule for 2018 and there are a couple of changes: Main Street is going to the dogs earlier this year, with the Dogs on Main stroll set for Thursday, May 31. Meanwhile, the annual Chalk a Block contest – traditionally on a Saturday in May – has moved to Thursday evening, July 26, paired with the Arts on Main stroll.

The Main Street Stroll series features businesses open late, live music and sidewalk vendors, creating a party-like atmosphere downtown.

Music on Main will take place on Thursday, June 21, coinciding with the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.

The Taste of Main stroll – when restaurants up and down Main Street offer samples – will be held on Thursday, Aug. 23.

The strolls start at 5 p.m.

 

EG Golf Club Closes Abruptly

The restaurant and golf club closed abruptly April 14.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich, R.I. – Anyone interested in golfing at East Greenwich Golf Club Saturday found the parking lot gate closed and a security guard sitting in a car just inside the gate to keep people from gaining entry.

One year after the club and restaurant were taken over by lawyer and former state attorney general candidate Rob Rainville, they were abruptly closed.

The nine-hole golf course was public – golfers could pay by the day – but also had yearly memberships.

The security officer on duty Sunday said club members should contact New England Tech for more information. Rainville was leasing the property from New England Tech.

“It’s going to be closed a little while,” said the security officer, who said her information came from the school. “They don’t know exactly how long before they get that squared away.”

For Joe Bertrand, it was a blow. The East Greenwich resident said he golfs at the club multiple times a week, along with a group of retirees who’ve been coming to the club for years. He had golfed there last week.

Bertrand said Rainville had done a good job improving the course and the restaurant, which had been known as Bistro 9 but became The 4o1 under Rainville.

“The restaurant is gorgeous. The greens are fantastic. They gutted the whole place. He did a great job,” Bertrand said. He said Rainville had been there pretty much every day since taking over and that Rainville had had big plans.

“He was going to put a place where you could buy equipment, and something by the sixth hole where you could drink and eat,” he said.

“It was a shock to me,” he said of the closure.



Developer Proposes Multi-Use Building for Prime Main Street Corner

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The 695 Main Street site as it currently appears.

The empty corner at First Avenue and Main Street – site of a former Sunoco station – has been an eyesore for years but that may finally be changing. At a Planning Board meeting earlier this month, applicant 20 Water Street Realty LLC brought its proposal for 695 Main Street for a pre-application review – a three-story mixed-use building with commercial spaces on the first floor, offices and apartments on the second floor and apartments on the third floor. A total of eight residential apartments are being proposed.

And, in general, the Planning Board liked what it saw.

In the seven years since Sunoco closed the station, the property has sat vacant and, at times, weed strewn. Early on, there was a move afoot to put a Walgreens on the site. That fell apart because of traffic concerns. The site is challenging. It’s not a huge parcel and it’s part of a busy intersection. A drug store would have provided more in-and-out traffic than the lot could bear.

The carwash on Second Street and First Avenue is on a separate lot and would remain.

Later, there was the possibility of a bank for that site. In theory, a bank could have worked, since banks don’t excite huge traffic, but that developer dropped out very early in the process.

More recently, it looked like the site would be home to a used car lot. But the used cars never materialized.

The proposal is similar to the Piazza Zarrella building at 652 Main St., which sits kitty-corner to 695 Main Street. That building has commercial businesses at street level (a lighting store, a photographer, a lawyer) and apartments upstairs, with parking behind. The new proposal would place the building right on the First Avenue and Main Street corner, with parking on the Second Avenue side. The carwash on Second Street and First Avenue is on a separate lot and would remain. There would be entrances to the parking area on First Avenue, Main Street and Second Street.

A pre-application review is non-binding. Rather, it’s an opportunity for a developer to show the Planning Board what it wants to do and get feedback. This was the developer’s second visit before the Planning Board and members were more favorable this time. In particular, members liked that the building was now flush with the street and provided more of a “gateway” appearance at an intersection that is considered the southern entry point to East Greenwich’s main downtown section.

The Planning Department’s staff report noted that the project would need approval from the Historic District Commission, since the property lies within the Downtown Historic District. In addition, while the parking plan seemed appropriate, if someone wanted to open a restaurant on the first floor, the report said, “the parking calculation would need to be re-examined.”

The next step for the project is Master Plan approval.

The Odeum Hits Its Stride

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

It was sprinklers – the lack of them – that closed the Odeum back in 2007 following the disastrous Station Nighclub fire. Now it’s sprinklers – installed last month – that are a sign that the Odeum theater has emerged as a serious performing arts space, right on Main Street in downtown East Greenwich.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Odeum.

Fire officials approved the Odeum’s new sprinklers the morning of Oct. 20. That night, the theater was showing the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. With the sprinkler system approved, suddenly the theater could reopen ticket sales – the state fire safety board had capped the number of people who could attend movies at the Odeum at 200, well shy of its 410 capacity. That day, the theater sold an additional 70 tickets, and the fire safety board approval meant the theater’s bar could open too. (Without sprinklers, the state had prohibited alcohol sales and had limited attendance for movies but not for live music performances at the theater.)

Beyond the symbolism, the sprinklers were just one more step in an ongoing effort to update and improve the theater, thanks to capital grants from the state Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the Champlin Foundations. 

RISCA has awarded grants to the Odeum for the past two years. The first year covered renovations to the theater’s lobby, and making the bathrooms ADA compliant. The sprinklers were started too – while the ceiling was open the indoor plumbing was installed. This year’s grant from RISCA covered what Odeum board president Dan Speca call “safety and convenience” fixes. The sprinklers were hooked up to the water main on Main Street and a lift to the second floor was added, bringing the theater into ADA compliance. The lift allows the balcony to be reopened, adding another 80 seats to the theater’s capacity. But the second floor needs work and the Odeum board is hoping RISCA will fund a third grant in 2018 to fix it up, adding bathrooms and a gathering space.

Odeum general manager Shana Vanderweele Ortman and production manager Molly Pritchard both work full time for the theater.

Meanwhile, the theater now has two full-time employees, production manager Molly Pritchard (EGHS Class of 2009) and general manager Shana Vanderweele Ortman (who comes to the Odeum from San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall), as well as a handful of part-time employees. Along with the theater’s board – as a nonprofit it’s run as by a board of directors – many volunteers help out too. Volunteers have been played an important role since the Odeum first opened and Dan Speca said new volunteers are always welcome.

Meanwhile, the theater keeps booking (and renting – you can rent the theater!). Last spring, Judy Collins performed to a sold out crowd with her still-amazing voice. Upcoming shows include Darlene Love and Aztec Two Step in November and Hot Tuna in December, as well as an intimate new concert series called Odeum Onstage, where performers and the audience will share the stage. Only 60 tickets will be available for those shows, the first of which features Richard Barone Dec. 7. The theater’s next big movie event is a showing of The Last Waltz Nov. 21, about The Band’s remarkable last concert.

“It’s all about the shared experience,” said Speca. That and the array of dining options on Main Street turn a night at the Odeum into a real night out. Speca says patrons are always telling him how easy it is to see a show at the Odeum, especially patrons from East Greenwich.

“Once you come to a show, then we’re on your radar and you come back,” Speca said.

If you want to stay up to date with Odeum offerings, sign up for their weekly email (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Town Council Meeting: Parking on Main St., Invoice Questions, Town Manager Search

The Town Council waded into one of the trickier issues facing East Greenwich at its meeting Monday night (8/7/17) – parking on Main Street, in particular valet parking. While the challenge may have been a welcome respite from recent meetings where questions of budget and consolidation and resident discontent had dominated, those issues did not disappear. In particular, during public comment, residents continued to question everything from possible open meeting violations to the single bid for consulting services for a firm whose principals ended up with the town manager and town finance director jobs.

But, for a few brief minutes, the Town Council was able to immerse itself in regular town stuff, i.e. parking.

Earlier this year, Councilors Sean Todd and Andy Deutsch had met with restaurant owners and valet parking services to see if they could resolve frequent complaints from both residents and some businesses on Main Street about the valet parking services used by several restaurants on Main Street.

Parking has long been an issue on Main Street. New businesses of any type hoping to open on Main Street must determine if they have enough parking spaces for their clientele or, if not, seek a parking variance. Some restaurants, Besos for instance, has its own lot and plenty of parking. Other restaurants, among them Rasa and Rocco’s, do not have lots. All three eateries rely on valet parking, but where exactly to Rasa and Rocco’s park their cars?

That’s what Todd and Deutsch were hoping to clarify, looking to valet company representatives to produce a map of parking areas for each restaurant. In addition, they want valet workers to wear name tags. There weren’t a lot of answers from the one valet company representative at Monday’s meeting.

During public comment, resident Caryn Corenthal commented that she loved dining on Main Street but was disappointed when she drove up to Rocco’s recently and the valet worker took her car and parked it across the street rather than away from Main Street.

“I could have done that,” she said. “We have definitely a parking problem in East Greenwich. If a restaurant does not have a lot, they shouldn’t have valet. There’s a lot of congestion at a couple of places. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

After the meeting, Corenthal said she was concerned about restaurants like Frank & John’s pizzeria, which does not use valet parking and relies on having a couple of parking spaces in front for customers who want to pick up pizza to go.

“Some residents have asked us to get rid of valet all together. I’m not in favor of that,” said Todd. “We have to have some kind of plan in place,” he acknowledged.

During council comments, Councilman Mark Schwager again questioned recent council actions, this time, an invoice from consulting firm Providence Analytics for Gayle Corrigan’s town manager services.

“On June 19, the Town Council held an executive session,” he said. ” … We voted 3 to 1 to agree a separation agreement with the current town manager at the time and we also voted 3 to 1 to appoint Gayle Corrigan as the acting town manager. So I was surprised and concerned to see an invoice for town manager services from June 19 … through June 30 from Providence Analytics. It’s unclear how this was billed by Providence Analytics as this was not discussed in executive session. It was also unclear who had the authority to assign payment for these invoices. So, I would like to request these issues be revisited in open session … to clarify these questions.”

The focus remained on the Town Council’s recent actions during public comment, when resident Karen Boegemann called into question the bidding process for the consultant to review the school department’s books. Only one bid was accepted – from Providence Analytics, the company owned and operated by the now-Town Manager Gayle Corrigan and now-Finance Director Linda Dykeman.

Boegemann noted that there were only two bids submitted for the yearly audit so the Town Council asked that the request for proposal (RFP) be recirculated to gain more bids. A third bid was submitted and one company was chosen out of the three.

“That was fair. That’s what we would expect. . . . I’d like to know why there wasn’t another RFP sent out for additional bids to compare [with the Providence Analytics bid]? I don’t understand,” she said.

Boegemann also said Corrigan and Dykeman were involved in a new venture, Lozen Associates, despite Corrigan’s having said in a story here that she was closing out her work involvement with Central Coventry Fire District and would not be seeking any new consulting work. The website includes praise for Dykeman from Christine Spagnoli, who currently works with Linda at the East Greenwich School Department, but is listed on the Lozen website as the finance director for the Town of East Greenwich.

Resident Elizabeth Wiens, a labor lawyer who represents the EG firefighters, said the Town Council had violated the open meetings law at least twice recently. First, she said, the agenda for the Town Council’s executive session on June 19 mentioned a job performance review but did not mention naming a new town manager, as they did that day after accepting former Town Manager Tom Coyle’s “separation” agreement. Wiens also noted that there was no mention of job performance reviews on the agenda for the council’s June 26 executive session, where they voted to lay off three employees.

Resident and EG Farmers Market organizer Tracie Truesdell took Councilman Nino Granatiero to task for alluding to former manager Coyle in his praise of Corrigan’s report to the council.

During Council Comments, Granatiero said, “In the past the town manager’s report lasted about two minutes. It was about how many cats we saved in trees … for the two weeks prior to the meeting. And tonight we heard a lengthy town manager’s report. So, Gayle, thanks digging into some issues … and just in general digging into meaty issues more than in the past.”

“This is tough. We’ve been friendly for close to a decade,” said Truesdell to Granatiero. “You have said you do not want personnel comments. But your last comment – about the previous town manager reporting on getting cats out of trees – I found it extremely disrespectful to his 30 years of service to this town.… and I think you owe this room an apology.”

Granatiero said he would not apologize but did not mean any disrespect.

Meanwhile, Council President Sue Cienki said the council would move ahead with a search process for a permanent town manager. She tasked each council member to come to the next meeting with the name of one person to sit on the search committee. Cienki also said she is committed to retaining public comment at Town Council meetings.

Here’s a videotape of the meeting. EG News will be covering the CDBG issue in a future story. The Town Council meets next on Monday, Aug. 28.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Mechanic Dave Frappier Leaves EG Shell After 34 Years

June 1, 2017 – I walked into the garage at East Greenwich Shell Thursday to talk to Dave about getting an oil change – my car was overdue. I didn’t have an appointment, but I’d confidently pulled my car into a space on the station’s small lot at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. I assumed I’d just leave it for the night and somehow Dave would fit my car into the schedule on Friday, as he’s done for my family for decades. Not this time.

As soon as I started talking, Dave stopped me.

“Elizabeth, I have to tell you: today’s my last day.”

You know you’ve lived in a place for a long time when hearing that your car mechanic is leaving brings you nearly to tears. I only fought them off because I couldn’t bear to cry in front of him.

After 34 years at EG Shell, Dave Frappier had taken a job for the City of Warwick, in their maintenance department. All I can say is, lucky Warwick.

Because this is the guy who would say, “Well, Elizabeth, it’s not cheap,” and then go on to tell me the fix was going to cost $120. In the land of car repairs, $120 is getting off pretty easy. He was the one who, after the timing chain on our Volvo station wagon basically melted – with resulting repair costs that weren’t cheap by any stretch – talked me off the ledge.

He and Shell owner Mark Boggs were the ones who would sometimes tag-team my car home to me after a service. One time I walked down to Shell (our house is just a few blocks away) to get my car only to be greeted by both Dave and Mark, laughing. They’d left the car in my driveway and somehow I’d missed it.

Dave was the one who told my son Aidan a few months ago that he really didn’t need to have much of anything done to his car in preparation for selling it – the car was in good shape.

There is no more service at EG Shell, just gas. Things change. When we moved to East Greenwich 28 years ago, there were three gas stations at that intersection. Now, it’s just Mark Boggs and the guys who help run the pumps at night.

I realized on Thursday that certain relationships are a lot deeper than they appear. Before Thursday, I wasn’t even sure of Dave’s last name – it was Frap something. Yet, he was one of the people in my world who I could count on.

Dave, you will be missed.

– Elizabeth McNamara

New Home for Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar

Greenwich Bay Oyster BarAfter months of renovations, Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar has opened up in its new space at 240 Main Street, just a couple doors down from its former location, with a little more space in the dining room, a more efficient kitchen and the same seaside details that lent the old space its charm.

Owner David Spaziano said he got extra encouragement to move when his old landlord (just two doors down) planned to raise the rent.

As before, there’s a prominent oyster bar. Seafood remains the focus.

“I was born and raised in Rhode Island. I’m always on the bay and in the water. Rhode

Oysters at Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar.
Oysters at Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar.

Island has some of the best waters to fish. There’s also a duty to keep the local economy going,” explained Spaziano.

He said in light of those things, a seafood restaurant “came naturally.”

While Spaziano is a chef, the restaurant’s head chef is Rob Caramonte. The restaurant features $1 oysters from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, among other specials.

Greenwich Bay Oyster Bar, 240 Main Street, East Greenwich, R.I., (401) 398-2462, www.greenwichbayoysterbar.com.


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Water Issue at Boesch Farm Forces Town to Examine Land Trust Mission

boesch well
The controversial new well at Briggs-Boesch Farm that was dug in order to provide water for processing chickens at the farm.

When the town leased the Briggs-Boesch Farm to poultry and livestock farmer Patrick McNiff in 2011, it was with the understanding that McNiff would be able to process his chickens at the farm. That goal has been stymied by the state health department requirement that McNiff have a public water supply for the chicken processing and now the Town Council has to decide just how involved the town should be in the operations of a private farmer on public land.

The farm, on South Road, is part of the EG Municipal Land Trust and since McNiff moved to the property, land trust members (town resident volunteers) have been the liaisons between the farmer and the town.

McNiff and the Land Trust jointly paid for a well to be dug on the property. The Dept. of Environmental Management approved the siting of the well as did the state Dept. of Health (DOH), at first. But after the 300-plus-foot well had been drilled, DOH noticed a stream within 200 feet of the well that they had overlooked initially. DOH said having a stream that close to the well would require additional water testing going forward, adding cost and oversight duties.

Boesch creek
With this creek a little more than 100 feet from the new well, Dept. of Health regulations require additional testing.

McNiff’s response was that he would take on the license for the well and the additional testing costs and oversight, but DOH said the town had to be the well’s licensee, since the town owns the farm.

“I didn’t want the town to have to be involved,” McNiff said Monday night, at a joint Town Council-Land Trust meeting at Swift Community Center. He said he had hired a professional wellhead operator, who would handle all the testing and maintenance issues.

At the meeting, however, council members had questions.

“I guess this is my concern: Are we in this business of farming?” said Town Councilor Sue Cienki.

“I think we still have some major issues to tackle,” said Councilor Mark Schwager. “The issue of the well was a trigger to look at the bigger picture of the Land Trust’s mission and how Boesch Farm fits in.”

Schwager was referring to the number of hours town employees were spending on Boesch Farm-related activities. Many of those activities had been done by former Planning Department employee Juliana Berry, who was laid off in September.

According to Town Planner Lisa Bourbonnais, if the Town Council allows the public well, town employees (mainly from Public Works) would spend an average of three hours a week on well-related issues.

“We need more oversight than just Pat’s well operator,” Bourbonnais said, saying that the town-employee hours cost out to about $4,900 a year. Maybe there’s a way to cost share with McNiff and the Land Trust, Bourbonnais suggested Wednesday. The Land Trust has its own revenue stream – income from the property currently leased by Happy Hearts on South County Trail.

Bourbonnais said additional oversight would be necessary for liability reasons. In other words, if a customer were to sue because of illness related to a Pat’s Pastured chicken, the town as well as Pat’s Pastured would very likely be targeted.

“Understanding the risk and then deciding if that risk is too great or not is the first issue at hand,” said longtime Land Trust member Doug Brown. “In fairness to Pat, he’s running a business. He’s counting on processing poultry on site – it’s always been part of his plan.”

Right now, McNiff transports his chickens and his mobile processing unit to Jamestown, where he can hook up to town water. That weekly fieldtrip takes more time and time, of course, is money.

“I don’t want to feel that I’m damaging Pat’s business directly,” said Schwager, however “it was not the strategy when Boesch Farm was purchased. It was to preserve the open space. It was to provide basic infrastructure for a farmer to come onto to the land.”

For Land Trust member Tracie Truesdell, however, a public water supply is basic infrastructure in the 21st century. She recalled that the former tenant, an organic fruit and vegetable farmer, had hoped to make jam to sell. Under today’s regulations, he would need a public water supply. And she argued that the well was for the farm, not the farmer.

“It’s a historic farm,” said Truesdell. “It’s time to make it current.”

The Town Council and Land Trust plan to meet again to further discuss the issue. No date has been set.


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EG Animal Hospital to Close, Leaving EGAPL Out of a Home

EG Animal HospitalThe East Greenwich Animal Hospital will close its doors April 1, after 33 years in business. The closure forces the EG Animal Protection League to scramble for a new home while it continues to lay the groundwork for a permanent home.

“It is with profound sorrow and deep regret that we must announce that East Greenwich Animal Hospital will be closing its doors on April 1st, 2015. We would like to thank our clients and our community for supporting us and entrusting your pets to us for the past 33 years,” read a post on the EGAH Facebook page.

EG Animal Hospital, 4302 Post Road, was found by Bipin and Kirti Pancholi in October 1982. Bipin became a fixture in East Greenwich, and was part of the EG Rotary Club until his death in 2001. In 2002, the EG Rotary founded the Bipin Pancholi Rotarian of the Year Award in his honor.

Kirti Pancholi continued operating the animal hospital until now. The hospital said clients are welcome to pick up their records during normal business hours through March 31. Starting April 1, clients are asked to call (401) 885-2221 to arrange for records pickup.

For the EG Animal Protection League, the situation is very tough.

“We will need immediate fosters for the dogs we have in our care as we will be without a home ourselves,” said a post on their Facebook page. “We are reaching out to our EGAPL supporters to see if you know of any facilities in the area who may be willing to rent space to us. We are in the very beginning stages of working on a potential building but it’s in its infancy and will require months of work so in the meantime we need help and suggestions!”

If you know of a place that might be available for the EGAPL, use their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-East-Greenwich-Animal-Protection-League/176694852388705


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