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New Japanese Restaurant Will Continue to Operate Without Alcohol License

Braintree's Board of License Commissioners approved a food license for the restaurant but a request for alcohol was withdrawn.

Wasabi, a new Japanese restaurant at the , will not be able to serve beer and wine for the forseeable future after company officials faced a barrage of criticism in front of the license board and withdrew an application to serve alcohol.

The sushi place had been operating inside the hallway of the Plaza in front of for the past month without food or alcohol licenses. On Tuesday, members of the Board of License Commissioners approved the food permit but also encouraged restaurant representatives to return with an updated alcohol application.

Chair Joe Powers said that although Wasabi was open without the proper licenses, its management had been trying in "good faith" to obtain permission. In a similar situation, the board last year despite the grilled cheese vendor operating without it for two months.

Powers was not as forgiving when it came to Wasabi's request for a Wine & Malt Restaurant License.

Chief among Powers' concerns about the establishment was its plan to store alcohol in a separate, locked room in the mall. He said that the state agency that oversees liquor licenses would take issue with alcohol being stored somewhere other than the premises of the restaurant.

"To me, that's problematic," Powers said.

The makeup of the restaurant also sets it apart from other licensed establishments in Braintree, Powers said. Wasabi is not walled-off from the common area of the Plaza, and is instead surrounded by a low barrier.

Wasabi executive Clyde Davis disputed Powers' idea of the restaurant, saying that even though the Plaza lists it as a kiosk, Wasabi has a 10-year lease, employs hosts at a single entry point and a wait staff that exclusively serves drinks. There is also no bar at the restaurant. Food is delivered to the tables by a conveyor belt, an "amusement" for customers, Davis said.

"It's meant to be pretty lean," he said.

The company also has locations in California, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, and has been operating at the Natick Mall with an alcohol license for the past eight months. Alcohol would only make up about 2.5 percent of Wasabi's estimated $1.5 million annual sales in Braintree, Davis said.

Before the board voted, Davis withdrew Wasabi's application. He said the restaurant would change its alcohol storage location to a locked cabinet within the main premises and fix other portions of its application, such as providing bank statements to prove financing.

Powers said that he would likely be against granting Wasabi the license despite those changes. Unlike restaurants with a well-defined space that also have more loosely confined outdoor seating, Wasabi's configuration is "tremendously problematic" for serving alcohol, he said.

Sean September 12, 2012 at 07:47 PM
why are places allowed to open in the mall without permits? Shouldn't mall management be held accountable for allowing these places to essentially open illegally?

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