Not for the fainthearted: Lockheart restaurant gets wary Wellesley Select Board’s OK

Things didn’t look hopeful for Wellesley resident Derek Brady’s bid to open a southwestern-themed tacos-plus restaurant called Lockheart next to the fire station in Wellesley Square after last week’s Select Board meeting. The Board went into a non-public executive session to discuss Brady’s business background, and a grim-faced crew emerged with an assumption the applicant would withdraw his plan—only to be informed by Brady’s attorney that this wasn’t over yet.

At this Monday’s Select Board meeting, which began with a public hearing to discuss possible changes to Wellesley’s alcohol regulations and a desire to attract a wider variety of restaurants, Mr. Brady made a comeback of which another well-known Mr. Brady familiar to those in this area would have been proud.

The Board again went into executive session to discuss Brady’s track record of running or investing in restaurants and bars in Boston and elsewhere. More than an hour-and-a half after proceedings began, they voted unanimously to approve licenses for the restaurant pending building and health approvals.

Brady had my unofficial vote when he spoke for all of us watching the meeting and politely but firmly told one of his legal reps to “please stop” after her umpteenth interruption.

As Select Board Chair Tom Ulfelder stated near the very end of the epic meeting, this hearing included “a lot of twists and turns.”

Wary Board members expressed and re-expressed concerns about violations, including for overcrowding and serving underage patrons, at restaurants the applicant has run or invested in. Ulfelder in the end said that a lot of the round-and-round could have been avoided if the initial application was filled out better and if supporting material had made clearer the circumstances under which some violations were issued, including before Brady was even involved with those places. Researching restaurant ownership is tricky, with owners often involved in numerous LLCs, some with murky or similar names.

One of Brady’s attorneys cited technology issues, such as the lack of everyone being able to meet in person, for some of the communications issues.

When Brady was able to get a few words in between the legal posturing, he explained how different operating Lockheart would be from some of the other establishments he’s involved with. This would be a business where no more than an estimated 30% of revenue would come from alcohol sales, he said.

“I happen to have a few restaurants that are in areas that are difficult to run restaurants…it’s difficult to run Causeway [across from Boston Garden], it’s difficult to run a lot of the restaurants that I have but that’s not the type of area that I think we’re looking at to do something here and that’s not the type of restaurant that I’m looking to do in this town,” Brady said. “They’re two different animals.”

The Board came around by the end, impressed in part by Mark Hicklin, who would be the restaurant’s manager, and like Brady is investing more than $85K in the venture. He gave straightforward answers to steps taken to address patrons trying to sneak in with fake IDs, including installation of a high-tech machine to sniff out bogus IDs that Lockheart would implement, too.

Linear Retail’s Lauren Rogers said the property management firm has had other prospective restaurant owners looking at its space, has done due diligence on Lockheart, and believes Brady’s proposal is the right fit. Among other things, she’s convinced he can actually staff the place at a time when that’s so hard to do. “I think his restaurant is a great anchor for this block,” she said.

Neighbors also vouched for Brady’s commitment to the community in looking to open Lockheart. Brady himself stressed that he’s gained experience running bars and restaurants in urban settings, but at this stage he’s focused on opening a family-oriented restaurant in the burbs.

In explaining her support for the project, Select Board member Beth Sullivan Woods acknowledged that the town hasn’t had as many restaurant applications as it would like to see, but that Lockheart appears to be the sort of place residents have said they would  support. Getting an application from a team coming from an urban restaurant and bar background “is a new experience for us and yet we very much have been making changes to be more open to restaurants,” she said.

This truly was a meeting impossible to summarize, as it featured everything from one Select Board member participating from overseas in the middle of her night to Brady freezing up due to a technical glitch at the end, unable to respond to a question about a timeline for the restaurant’s possible opening (a cliffhanger!).

I encourage you to check out the Wellesley Media recording at about the 2-hour, 40-minute mark to get the full effect.

One thing for sure is that Lockheart deserved an entertainment license.  Any outfit that can make a Select Board meeting this compelling easily qualifies for that.