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Vote near on Dave & Buster’s bid to open in Woburn

James Stubblebine ate a meal with his sons at the Braintree Dave & Buster’s.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

James Stubblebine ate a meal with his sons at the Braintree Dave & Buster’s.

A big, brash, and bustling chain of restaurant and entertainment palaces out of the Wild West, Dave & Buster’s hardly got the red carpet treatment when it began location-hunting along Route 128 a few years ago.

A big, brash, and bustling chain of restaurant and entertainment palaces out of the Wild West, Dave & Buster’s hardly got the red carpet treatment when it began location-hunting along Route 128 a few years ago.

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But local opposition to the outsized eatery, where the number of seats and video games runs into the hundreds, appears to be slowly fading as the Texas-based operator establishes a business record in Massachusetts.

After being rejected by Burlington in 2011, Dave & Buster’s opened its first Bay State location on the southern tip of Route 128 in Braintree, albeit with a long string of conditions.

Two years later, Dave & Buster’s is closing in on its second Route 128 location, with plans for a sprawling 47,000-square-foot entertainment palace at 275 Mishawum Road in Woburn.

‘I think a lot of people have seen how it’s operated and their fears have been eliminated.’

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If the City Council approves the proposal later this month, the 828-seat eatery will open with 200 video-game terminals.

“Woburn has been very receptive to it,” said Joseph Tarby, a lawyer representing Dave & Buster’s in the local approval process. “It’s in an area where there are other restaurants and industrial uses. It’s all good so far.”

Even so, selling the concept has not been a cake walk for the chain of restaurants where you can order drinks from a cocktail waitress while playing your favorite video game. Although Chuck E. Cheese and Fun and Games on Route 9 in Framingham both offer video games, they are designed for children, with soda on tap, not beer.

Woburn’s Planning Board recently recommended the proposed Dave & Buster’s be approved, but with a list of 23 conditions. Most are related to traffic, with the company on the hook for a new sidewalk, improvements to traffic lights, and a traffic study that could lead to additional improvements.

The chain will also have to pay for police details during busy Thursday through Sunday evenings, according to the list of conditions issued by the Planning Board. Three to six months after the restaurant is opened, local officials will review the police details to determine whether they are still needed or can be scaled back, the document indicates.

On Oct. 27, the Woburn City Council is expected to review and potentially approve the project, which calls for the restaurant to be built on an empty and disused parcel. The site of the former commuter rail station on Mishawum Road has been redeveloped into a bank headquarters, while a former Logan Express building and lot will be torn down to make way for the new Dave & Buster’s.

“We don’t want to see a continuation of the vacancy of that site,” said Edmund Tarallo, Woburn’s planning chief.

So far, though, the proposal has failed to arouse much, if any, opposition. The biggest concern has been the pace of the review process, which began in May.

“They are from Texas; we are trying to navigate them through the review process,” said Michael Meaney, executive director of the Woburn Business Association, which Dave & Buster’s has joined. “Their biggest concern is that in other cities and towns in other states the process has gone a little more smoothly.”

Still, there has been nowhere near the heated opposition and neighborhood concerns Dave & Buster’s faced with its eventually abandoned bid to open in Burlington and its successful effort to plant its flag in Braintree.

The chain was feared by residents in both communities as a potential magnet for unsavory elements drawn by the mix of video games and alcohol.

Burlington’s Planning Board rejected, by 6-1 vote, the restaurant chain’s proposal to convert a shuttered car dealership on the Middlesex Turnpike, just off Route 128.

The decision prompted a lawsuit by the lot’s owner, who said Dave & Buster’s was being treated is if it were an “adult entertainment” business.

One Burlington official even described Dave & Buster’s as a “Chuck E. Cheese for adults.”

In Braintree, anxious neighbors prompted municipal officials to impose a number of conditions, including separating the bar area from the video game floor.

But those early fears never came to fruition.

In mid-2012, just six months after Dave & Buster’s opened, Braintree’s police chief scaled back the police details at the new restaurant, saying they were no longer needed.

There have been no complaints since then about the restaurant, from the neighbors or anyone else, said Annette McLaughlin, legal assistant for the Braintree Licensing Board.

“It’s been pretty quiet,” she said.

Establishing a restaurant in Massachusetts has made a difference in dispelling fears, said Robert Buckley, a Burlington-based real estate and development lawyer.

Before the Braintree location opened, you had to drive to Providence to visit a Dave & Buster’s.

“I think a lot of people have seen how it’s operated and their fears have been eliminated,” Buckley said.

Meanwhile, in Woburn, city officials and business leaders are eager for the estimated $300,000 a year in taxes and license fees that the proposed new Dave & Buster’s is expected to pump into city coffers.

If the restaurant gets a green light from the City Council in two weeks, construction on the new Dave & Buster’s could start as early as next month, said Meaney, with the business association.

“It’s a win-win for the city,” he said. “In this day and age, it’s all about taxes, taxes, taxes.”

Scott Van Voorhis can be reached at sbvanvoorhis@ hotmail.com.

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