Welcome to Belmont, Jared.
Subway restaurant, the largest franchiser in the US with more than 35,000 locations worldwide, is coming to the former TCBY space at 59A Leonard St.
Late Monday night, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to approve the application of Christopher Cho of Waltham and Enrique Colbert of Jamaica Plain to operate what the Connecticut-based restaurant chain claims is a healthy alternative to other fast food operations.
The Homer Building Art Gallery where the ZBA held its meeting was filled with more people – about two dozen – than usually attend a typical appeal, many of whom were there to express either support or opposition to the Subway moving into the center.
Cho and Colbert will be managers of the limited liability company and sublease it from Albert J. Locatelli Realty Trust for 10 years.
The eatery will use 3,000 square feet; 1,500 square foot on the first floor and 1,500 square feet in the basement.
The Subway’s proposed hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The seating will be limited to 42 seats and the décor will be an “upscale Tuscany design” with a variety of tables, chairs, booths and sofas.
Cho and Colbert told the ZBA that they own five additional Subway franchises that are quite successful and outlined the benefits they believe the establishment will bring Belmont.
They point to providing healthy and relatively inexpensive food that is an alternative to the sit-down restaurants on the street; employing 15-20 workers; contributing about 40 percent of sales back into the local community that could equal about $200,000; and honoring a “good neighbor” policy that limits direct competition with other local businesses which, in this case, means not selling pizza, ice cream, frozen yogurt or alcohol that could “adversely impact” Stone Hearth Pizza, Comella’s and Gregory’s House of Pizza.
In his presentation, Cho said the store will operate on two levels with seating for 20 customers upstairs and 20 downstairs. In addition, he said the store will have ample parking in back and showcase the Subway company’s upscale Tuscany II décor with a variety of tables, chairs, booths and sofas.
But, even though saying they had nothing against the applicants, several residents and a business owner questioned the wisdom of allowing a fast-food establishment into the center.
Right place for a chain?
“Doesn’t the board have a responsibility to see what is best for the Center?” asked Leon de Magistris, owner of the hair salon Leon & Co.
“I feel a chain will be (out of place) in the Center,” de Magistris said.
“(The district) is unique and we are going down the wrong road to open it up to chains,” he said, further pointing out that what might be next is a McDonald’s that could ruin the character of the Leonard Street business district.
ZBA Chairman William Chin advised de Magistris that such a use is allowed in the district and that members of the board are only charged with considering if the establishment will be safe, well run and conform to zoning regulations.
Other residents said having a national chain in the Center is not the best option for Belmont and that the beauty of Leonard Street will be compromised – with an entirely different feeling – should Subway be allowed to open a business.
However, landlord Kevin Foley, whose grandfather built the building where the applicants are seeking to locate, said the Center has had four to six national chains at various times and he believes the district has a good mix of stores and restaurants.
“Subway will draw a lot of people here,” he said.
“I’m not sure if people are seeing (the version) Cho and Colbert have for this Subway.”
What attracted him to the applicants, Foley said, is their background; both graduates of Dartmouth with business management and law backgrounds and believes their opening the restaurant will expand the Center and bring more customers to it.