Ula Cafe's hopes to add beer and wine to their offerings got a boost Tuesday as a neighborhood group voted to support the idea.
It was the first of two public meetings this week to clear the red tape needed for the change. The 284 Amory St. spot appeared before a JP Neighborhood Council committee on Tuesday and is scheduled to go before the Licensing Board on Wednesday.
The Public Service Committee of the JP Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to support the move.
The cafe wants to add the adult beverages in large part because of their monthly "open mic" nights, Ula Cafe's manager, Korinn Koslofsky, told committee members on Tuesday during a meeting at the Congregational Church next to Stony Brook T.
"It's been made clear by our customers that they'd enjoy a craft beer or a glass of wine at these events," she said.
On those open mic nights, the cafe stays open later. While Ula's license allows them to stay open until 10 p.m., they don't often actually stay open that late, she said.
A recent legal change, championed by City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, made the move even conceivable, Koslofsky said. A normal beer and wine license costs $150,00o or more. That was out of reach for the neighborhood cafe.
But Pressley pushed through 75 new alcohol licenses that are just for JP and a handful of other neighborhoods considered underserved by bars and restaurants. Businesses that get one of the new licenses don't own it outright — it goes back into the communal pool if they close.
Ula patrons will have to order food in order to be served beer or wine. That's to emphasize that Ula still isn't a bar, Koslofsky told the committee.
If successful, the move would create a triangle of Brewery spots to grab a beer: Bella Luna/Milky Way, the Sam Adams Brewery and Ula.
Koslofsky showed committee members more than 520 signatures from residents desiring the addition. Also backing the move is landlord JP Neighborhood Development Corp. and neighboring Bella Luna.
Here's the letter of support from Carol Downs, GM and co-owner of Bella Luna:
Egleston Square Main Street, a community development nonprofit, also formally backed the idea. A nearby neighborhood group, the Union Avenue Neighborhood Association, indicated its non-opposition to the beer and wine bid in an unsigned letter.
Interestingly, the landlord stands to benefit nicely from the addition. A percentage of Ula sales, including those of beer and wine if their license bid is successful, are paid to the Neighborhood Development Corp. as rent. Landlords getting a percentage of sales is relatively common, said Michael Reiskind, chairperson of the Public Service Committee and an expert at licensing issues in the neighborhood.
A Change to Nature of Business?
Several committee members asked questions about whether beer and wine might not go with Ula's vibe as a family-friendly neighborhood cafe.
Koslofsky, who has taken training on alcohol service problems, said she expects little to change. The cafe's number of seats will remain the same and there aren't any immediate plans to alter the menu. The cafe is best known as a bakery, though it does serve a wide variety of sandwiches and wraps.
On Wednesday, the city's Licensing Board is scheduled to hear Ula's arguments at 10 a.m. at City Hall.