|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD When asked if the owners of the new Mediterranean Grill at 1673 Main St. were the same people who once owned the Kennedy Fried Chicken at the same address the site of numerous police calls and a notorious shooting attorney Joseph Lussier said, "No comment."
Lussier made the remark to Reminder Publications a day after he represented the new restaurant with their application of a common victualer license at the Board of License Commission meeting on Thursday.
The board granted the license with a change of hours. The restaurant wanted to be opened from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., but the board said it would only allow it to be open until midnight for the first six months of operation. If there were no incidences, the board would consider changing the hours.
Lussier was to have been accompanied by Vincent Maldonado, the manager of record. Instead Abdul Raziq, who was identified as one of the people who would be running the restaurant, was with him. An Abdul Raziq is listed as the contact person for the Kennedy Fried Chicken at 1051 Ogden Ave., in the Bronx, N.Y. A worker at the restaurant said Raziq was not there when this reporter tried to reach him on Friday.
Lussier said Maldonado wasn't able to be at the meeting due to an illness in his family and that he was out of the country. Lussier said he didn't know when Maldonado would return.
The Mediterranean Grill is owned by Springfield Crown Inc. The Secretary of State's Web site lists Maldonado as the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and director of the corporation.
Commissioner Melvin McLaurin said he was uncomfortable moving forward without the manager present.
Lussier argued against another delay as opening the restaurant has been a six-month process, which has included working with both the city and the building's owner in reaching an accord over the back taxes owed by the landlord.
Under a Springfield ordinance, a business requiring a license or permit cannot be granted that document unless the property taxes are paid.
Commission Chair Peter Sygnator pointed out that Lussier had been the lawyer for the owners of the Kennedy Fried Chicken and asked him to understand the board's concerns.
"I, for one, have many reservations," Sygnator said.
Lussier maintained this restaurant would be a "fresh start." He said the owners have changed the restaurant's concept and made it "a little bit more upscale."
Seeing that the board wasn't going to act on the application without a manager of record, Lussier suggested making Raziq the manager. Although McLaurin still protested, the rest of the board agreed and allowed Raziq to assume responsibility.
Referring to the problems of the past at the former restaurant, Lussier said that now "they know they have to change something immediately if they find themselves in that situation."
Commissioner Juan Rivera suggested treating the new restaurant with the precedent the board made with the former Common Ground Diner that had been located next to Kennedy Fried Chicken of imposing a closing time of midnight. The owner of the Common Ground Diner had also requested a 2 a.m. closing time but was denied because of the shooting at Kennedy Fried Chicken.