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Quincy licensing board reverses course, rejects Tilted Kilt’s plans

Deacon Paul Lewis of St. John the Baptist was among those who crowded into Tuesday’s licensing hearing on a proposed Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery in Quincy.

Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe

Deacon Paul Lewis of St. John the Baptist was among those who crowded into Tuesday’s licensing hearing on a proposed Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery in Quincy.

After an outcry from residents over the planned attire of waitressess, Quincy’s licensing board reversed an earlier decision that allowed a Scottish-themed pub and sports bar at the site of the closed Outback Steakhouse on Parkingway Street.

Specifically, the mid-thigh kilts, push-up bras, and cropped sweaters of the wait staff at the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery had representatives of St. John the Baptist Parish, located across the street from the proposed site, up in arms.

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Dozens of parishioners from St. John’s, numerous members of Fort Square Presbyterian Church, and a number of Quincy residents crowded into the licensing board hearing on Tuesday afternoon. The hearing was a re-do of a July 17 meeting of which the church had not been notified.

At the earlier meeting, the Board of License Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a branch of the Arizona-based Tilted Kilt chain. But in a 3-2 vote Tuesday, members sided with the opponents.

“I’ve reviewed the laws. [It] places the burden on the licensing board to determine that premise isn’t detrimental to the spiritual value of the church. Based on the testimony I’ve heard tonight, I’m not able to support this,” said Jay Duca, director of inspectional services and a member of the board.

Police Chief Paul Keenan, who did not attend the previous meeting, agreed with Duca, saying the law allows people to express their beliefs and the location was not ideal.

Neither Fire Chief Joseph Barron nor Public Health Commissioner Andrew Sheele changed their votes, as they did not feel the restaurant threatened public safety.

“I knew what [the restaurant] was. I did my due diligence. I knew what I was voting for, and I wanted people to know that that’s what this is,” Sheele said. “I’m glad people came out to voice their opinion, [but] I do not believe we are the moral police for every establishment that opens in Quincy.”

Sheele did propose scaling back the hours of the restaurant, so that it would close at 11 p.m., in keeping with the former Outback Steakhouse’s hours.

Despite the time change, City Clerk and Licensing Board chairman Joseph Shea sided with the opposition in a tie-breaking vote.

Attorney Andrew Fleming, who represented the Tilted Kilt applicants, said his clients were disappointed in the ruling and would review their options before taking any further steps.

“We didn’t anticipate that they would outright deny a license with circumstances like this, especially when the opposition was almost entirely based in the attire of the wait staff,” Fleming said.

An appeal to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is still possible, as is an appeal to the Superior Court, Fleming said. His clients may even look into other locations in the city.

As for Deacon Paul Lewis from St. John’s, who led the opposition to the restaurant, the decision was both surprising and pleasing.

“I was really surprised . . . you had to show there was an adverse impact on the church. That’s the sticky part I had to stick to. But it didn’t fit in with the whole Quincy rehabilitation. It’s not what we want,” Lewis said.

The idea of the new Quincy downtown was brought up numerous times during the meeting by residents, School Committee member Anne Mahoney, and members of the church.

People supporting the establishment, including two residents who stood up to speak and representatives from the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, cited the economic vitality of bringing a restaurant into a space that had been vacant for two years.

“The dress code and the concerns of the church — we shouldn’t have a church near a beach then,” said Charles Kalell of Quincy. “I understand the feeling of the church. . . . I did go online. Are they dressed like a lot of restaurants? I would say no, but if I don’t like how they are dressed, I wouldn’t go.”

Regardless, the site will remain vacant for now as Quincy awaits a new proposal for the space.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com.
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