April 13, 2015

Illegal pinball

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The other day I posted about all of the things going on for Clover. A really long post.

Towards the end of that post was a mention of a pinball. Not less than 3 hours after I put that post on the website I got an email from Cambridge Licensing letting me know that due to an ordinance in Cambridge we might not be allowed to have pinball.

So crazy right? Crazy there’s an issue. And crazy they are reading this website to find that. We’re chasing around city agencies right now to get to the bottom of this. So far we’ve been told by zoning that it’s not their job, told by the head of City Inspectional Services that there’s no issue, told by licensing that they need us to get an entertainment license. So we’ve applied for an entertainment license.

I’d love to sit down with a City official and go through how absolutely crazy it’s been to try to work in this City. I’m reaching a boiling point. Feels like anything you want to do there’s an absurd obstacle put in your place.

We had a Cambridge Fire Sargent come into the HUB the other day harassing Chris about a bill that a plumber we work with hadn’t paid them, $500 or so. Chris asked if it was our bill and they said no, but they know we work with that plumber. They threatened to shut down the HUB and prevent HFI from opening if we get the plumber to pay up. No joke. No joke. In 2015. In an educated city.

We can’t apply for a beer license for HFI because the previous tenant has what Massachusetts calls a pocket license. That’s a license that’s not active (because he has no business anymore) but is “attached” to our address. Cambridge will not allow us to apply for a license until that pocket license is moved or revoked. The Cambridge ordinances say very clearly that pocket licenses should not be renewed, yet the License Commission renewed his license at the end of the year. He didn’t file for an extension of his license, but the Cambridge License Commission extended it anyway. And here we are, 1 year after we signed a LOI on the space, still unable to apply for a permit. It’s really incredible.

It’s taken a year, literally a year, to get our pita oven approved for use in Cambridge. If I’d opened it in New Hampshire I could have had bread baking last May. And I’m spending more money on consultants, engineers, etc. than the oven cost to be built in Israel and shipped across the ocean.

These are some larger stories, but there are dozens of smaller stories. And they’re hardly unique to Clover. It’s just an amazing pain to try to do business. These things seem broken. They just don’t seem to work they way they should. I would be shocked if there is somebody who lives in Cambridge who thinks it would be a bad thing for Clover to have a pinball machine in our restaurant. And I think most business people in the City feel there is nothing they can do. I feel that same way.

(Oh, and we will have pinball, legal or not. And yeah, that’s a cherry Twilight Zone machine there. I’ve been doing a lot of pinball research : )

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