"The situation is not a sustainable one at this point," said Adam Dash, a lawyer for The Center for Arts at The Armory, speaking about the Highland Avenue arts center's financial situation.
Dash spoke Wednesday night at a public hearing held by the Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals.
The Armory is seeking to extend its hours, increase its occupancy, cook meals on site, create outdoor cafe seating and receive permission to apply for a full liquor license. Due to restrictions placed on the operation of the Armory, the Zoning Board of Appeals must approve these requests.
Dash said The Center for Arts at the Armory is struggling to attract events, such as theatrical performances and concerts, because it can't stay open late enough or allow enough people into the venue. To remain in business, the non-profit is seeking the changes.
"If you don't want these things to change, you will not have an Arts at the Armory," Dash said.
Among other things, The Armory wants to stay open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday (it's currently open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 11 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.) It also wants to increase its maximum capacity from 390 people to 495 people (building codes would allow 900 standing people if it weren't for zoning restrictions, Dash said).
Many neighbors of The Amory, however, adamantly opposed allowing such changes to the way the arts center operates, citing disturbances such as noise from loud parties and bands, large delivery trucks idling at late hours and a massive parking squeeze in the neighborhood.
"The neighborhood is being railroaded," said John Sullivan, a neighbor.
A handful of Somerville aldermen spoke at the hearing, all expressing their general support for The Center for Arts at the Armory, but mostly siding with neighbors when it comes to capacity, operating hours and the liquor license issue.
"I think, here tonight, this proposal goes too far," said Alderman At-Large Dennis Sullivan.
"It would fall on the backs of the neighbors," said Alderman At-Large Bruce Desmond.
Some, such as Ward 5 Alderman Sean O'Donovan and Ward 3 Alderman Thomas Taylor, suggested neighbors and the Armory go through a mediation process.
Among those supporting the Armory's proposal was the Somerville Chamber of Commerce. Stephen Mackey, president of the Chamber of Commerce, called the Armory a "jewel" and that "in order to compete" against other Boston-area venues "it needs to have the tools."
Dash warned Zoning Board of Appeals members against too much delay. "Arts at the Armory's finances are very much at the edge," he said, adding that if the board delays making a decision by months, there might not be a Center for Arts at the Armory. "It's not a threat, I'm just trying to explain the situation," he said.