The Center for Arts at the Armory will be allowed to open earlier, close later, increase its capacity, operate a kitchen, apply for a liquor license and create outdoor cafe seating, according to a decision by the Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals.
The Board voted on Oct. 17 to approve the changes, which the arts organization said were necessary for the venue to remain financially viable.
At a public hearing held in September, a lawyer for The Center for Arts at the Armory said the venue was struggling to attract performances and events due to restrictions on its capacity and hours or operation, among other things. Those restrictions were put in place when, in 2004, Joseph and Nabil Sater, owners of the Middle East in Central Square, bought the mostly vacant drill hall and converted it into an arts venue. Since then, it has become a mainstay of Somerville's cultural scene, hosting charity and arts events and the popular Winter Farmers Market.
The Board's decision extends the Armory's hours to 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. on weekdays. Perviously, it opened at 8 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the Armory will be able to open at 7 a.m. and close at 1 a.m. It previously opened at 8 a.m. and closed at 11 p.m.
The Zoning Board of Appeals also increased the capacity from 395 to 495 people. (In terms of building codes, the Armory could theoretically hold up to 904 people).
The Board also approved plans for the Armory to open a kitchen. Perviously, the cafe was restricted to serving uncooked snacks and food prepared off site.
Also, the Armory's cafe will be allowed outdoor seating.
Finally, the Zoning Board of Appeals granted the Armory, which already has a beer and wine license, the opportunity to apply for a full liquor license.
Some neighbors of the Armory opposed the changes, citing disturbances such as noise from loud parties and bands, large delivery trucks idling at late hours and parking squeeze in the neighborhood.