“The village square,” as some have renamed the parking lot for six Pawtuxet businesses, will get to keep outdoor seating, bar and dance floor at a cost to the three …
“The village square,” as some have renamed the parking lot for six Pawtuxet businesses, will get to keep outdoor seating, bar and dance floor at a cost to the three restaurants that use it.
Dean Scanlon, who opened L’Attidutes, now Revolution American Bistro, 24 years ago, said Sunday he and the operators of Fellini Pizzeria and the Bagel Express came to an agreement with the landlord Anthony Albanese to use the parking lot for outdoor dining at an undisclosed increase in their rent.
The conversion of the 6-space parking lot to outdoor dining came in response to the pandemic. The Take it Outside program, designed to revive the hospitality industry in the wake of Covid-19 shutdown, provided each of the three businesses $10,000 to assist in transforming the space, Scanlon said. He says he spent another $50,000 in fencing, wiring, furniture and heaters. Soon after the parking area was opened, Scanlon erected igloos that contained tables enabling families to dine outside without mixing with other patrons.
As pandemic restrictions were lifted and indoor dining resumed, outdoor dining only gained in popularity as long as the weather was agreeable. In addition, the venue became a place for locals to hang out and chat over a coffee or another form of libation. Even some of those making deliveries to the businesses get to enjoy it.
“It’s great for the village as long as everyone gets along,” said Mike Lepore who was seated at the “Bagel Beach” with Bagel Express owner Ray Verrocchio. Lepore starts his bagel delivery run at 5 a.m. making sure that Verrocchio gets his bagels in time to open and that he has time for a coffee.
Verrocchio didn’t want to discuss the financial arrangement to keep the outdoor tables.
“It was worth it to have,” he said. And the cost? “It wasn’t that much,” he said.
Albanese lives in the village. His first village acquisition was the former Cameron’s Pharmacy in 1981. Since then he has bought more Pawtuxet properties as well as those in other communities.
On Monday he had no issue disclosing the financial arrangements with Bagel Express, Revolution or Fellini only that he wasn’t sure Scanlon was aboard. He said he hasn’t talked directly with Scanlon in more than a year and that their respective attorneys have been in touch.
“You know more than I do,” he said when informed Scanlon considers the matter resolved.
Albanese said he “bent over backwards” for his tenants during the pandemic. He said he reduced rents for a loss of $25,000 to $30,000 over three years and, in addition, paid to help the move to outdoors. Now he is looking to recover those funds as well as invest in the future.
It’s not clear that Albanese was seriously considering bringing back the parking lot, but that possibility was a big deal to area residents and those who frequent the village. Social media posts spread the word. Gene Vallicenti picked up on it for the WPRO Radio new show. An online petition was launched.
Seemingly, the word spread just as quickly that the outdoor seating would stay.
Looking at the future of the village square, Albanese envisions revamping the lot to remove the slope with the creation of two tiers separated by a stone wall and providing walkways to Doggie Do, Anchored Sout and the La Fox Styles. He is concerned by the safety of patrons outside and talks of curbing, heavier fencing and cement filled pipes as safeguards from a vehicle driving or rolling into the dining area. He puts those costs at $100,000 to $150,000, which over time would be passed along to the tenants.
“I want to do what’s right for them,” he said of his tenants.
As for the added costs his tenants now face, Albanese said Fellini and Revolution would pay an additional $600 a month and Bagel Express $300.
“I don’t want to kill anybody,” he said saying the higher rent is easily covered by the new business the outdoor space brings in. Albanese feels he’s being painted as the villain because of the number of properties he owns in the village.
His tenants have also brought in business that has highlighted the village parking problem. Albanese notes that parking for the liquor store, also an Albanese building, is often filled with customers for the restaurants and the stores across the street that he owns. He doesn’t see an easy solution to the problem.
“The first day I worked here was the only day there was parking,” says Dawn Acciaioli of Doggie Do that is wedged in a corner store between Fellini and Anchored Soul. That was a couple of years ago when parking was closed off to allow for dining al fresco. Acciaioli and her husband, Cory Moitoso said customers have learned to park in back and use the door on George Street.
“People don’t understand what’s going on,” Acciaioli said of the scuttlebutt she’s picked up. She didn’t make much of the loss of parking out front, but she did think it would be nice if Albanese took that into consideration when charging the rent.