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Center for Arts at the Armory Seeks Extended Hours, Other Changes

The Somerville arts center would also like outdoor seating, the ability to cook meals on site and a full liquor license.

, an arts venue on Highland Avenue that's home to the , would like to open earlier and close later.

It would also like to be able to cook on site, have outdoor tables and eventually apply for a full liquor license (it currently serves wine and beer).

Seeking financial stability

According to Tracey Stark, executive director of The Center for Arts at the Armory, these changes are essential if the Armory is to remain financially stable.

"People need to know this is important to us," she said.

Currently, the Armory opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays. On Thursdays through Saturdays, it closes at midnight. It would like to open at 7 a.m. and extend its hours at night by two hours.

Under its current hours, performers need to be finishing their shows at 9:30 p.m. during much of the week and by 11:30 p.m. on weekends, and a number of dance and theater groups have passed on performing at the Armory because of the hours, Stark said.

"It's preventing us from doing the sort of programming we do to fulfill our mission," she said. Part of that mission is hosting community events and programs, but the arts center is financially "under the gun all the time," Stark said. Extended hours would help the venue land performers and events that will make the Armory more "financially stable," she said.

Needs approval from Zoning Board of Appeals

The Armory must apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals to get permission for extended hours and the other proposed changes.

The Armory, built in 1903 as a home to state volunteer militia, was for years mostly vacant until 2004, when Joseph and Nabil Sater, owners of the Middle East in Central Square, bought the building and converted it into an arts venue. As part of that process, the city's zoning board placed certain restrictions on the facility, explained Stark.

The Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to discuss the matter Wednesday night, but a hearing will likely take place Sept. 5. The Zoning Board of Appeals staff recommends conditional approval of the changes.

Kitchen, outdoor cafe, liquor license

Among those changes, the Armory would like a kitchen so it can serve better food. The current cafe is essentially limited to a panini press, Stark said.

In regard to outdoor seating, it would be on Highland Avenue during nice-weather months, there would be no table service or alcohol allowed, and the tables would close at dusk, she said.

One of the current zoning restrictions is that the Armory isn't permitted to apply for a full liquor license. With the Zoning Board of Appeals' approval, the Armory would still need to go though the licensing commission to get a liquor license.

Relationship with the neighborhood

Stark acknowledged some neighbors might be resistant to these proposed changes, while others will be supportive.

Running an arts venue in a neighborhood that didn't previously have one represents a chance, she said, adding, "I think we bring a lot of benefit to the city."

"We have been a good neighbor," she said.

The Armory has also posted an online petition for those who support their plans.

Marie August 15, 2012 at 10:32 AM
This was obviously the plan from the moment the Armory was re-opened as an arts center. The Armory agreed to certain conditions, including respecting the neighbors. How did they show this respect? By trying to install a kitchen that they clearly did not have a permit to install. And if you can't fulfill your mission of hosting arts and community events unless you stay open until 2 am then something's wrong. Let's have an honest argument for once. What it's really about is how much money the owners can make, on the backs of the neighbors'. I've attended lots of 'community events' and most ended before midnight much less 2 am. And I was under the impression that fundraising events were not allowed by their permit. Why have they hosted a number of politicial fundraisers?
jo August 15, 2012 at 11:36 AM
They have lied from the time they bought the building until now.......they are obviously lining someone pockets because they seem to get whatever they want whenever they want............for all of you people who are going to disagree with me.....you don't live near this place and have no idea how this will affect our neighborhood so keep your comments to yourself-they originally were an arts center -now a night club? a cafe and now a full restaurant with a liquor license-- c'mon guys -stop lying and stick to the rules for once -
Fefie August 15, 2012 at 05:27 PM
"What it's really about is how much money the owners can make, on the backs of the neighbors'." The Armory has stated is having fiscal distress which is why they need to modify certain conditions. It certainly does not conduct itself in the matter of an organization flush with tons of money. And their calendar of events is never fully booked. I'm amazed they've managed this long, considering they opened just when the economy tanked.
bob August 15, 2012 at 11:09 PM
The Armory is a huge benefit to this area and to all of Somerville. These NIMBY complaints are lame. Why shouldn't someone be able to operate a full restaurant or nightclub on one of the busiest streets of Somerville with extremely limited options nearby?
jo August 16, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Hey bob why don't you move to hudson st when they stay open til 2 a.m. and all the drunk morons come stumbling out into your yard and then tell me what you think

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