American-style eatery eyed for Bali Hai site

Jun 6, 2019 by

Published June 5, 2019


LYNNFIELD — A new American-style eatery will be replacing the former Bali Hai Restaurant on Moulton Drive.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to transfer an all-alcohol license from the Bali Hai to Wakefield-based MDK Ventures, LCC on Monday. Owners Matthew and David Palumbo of Bluejay Road will be opening a new restaurant called American 160 Bar and Grill at the 160 Moulton Dr. property.

Attorney Ted Regnante said the Palumbo brothers formed MDK Ventures recently. He recalled that the two brothers purchased the Bali Hai Restaurant, which had been a culinary institution since the 1950s, late last year for $600,000.

Regnante said Matthew Palumbo and the restaurant’s manager, Steve Cucinatti, are TIP certified. He said David will be certified in the near future.

“All employees who will be serving liquor will be TIP certified,” said Regnante.

Regnante said the new restaurant will specialize in “American comfort food including steak tips, burgers, wings, salads, sandwiches and a special children’s menu.”

“The restaurant will be priced substantially lower than the prices at MarketStreet,” said Regnante. “The restaurant will use the existing area used by the Bali Hai at 160 Moulton Dr. The Palumbos will be replacing equipment and furnishings as needed. No changes will be made to the exterior of the building except signage. There will be changes to the interior including painting, new carpeting and refurbishing. Those renovations will take a couple of months to complete.”

American 160 will have the same hours as the Bali Hai Restaurant, which will be from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.

Regnante recalled that the Palumbo brothers proposed constructing a two-story, two-unit apartment building on the property last summer, but the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the project last November. While ZBA members Anthony Moccia and Andy Youngren voted in favor of the developers’ request for a Special Permit, ZBA Chairman Brian Shaffer voted no. State law requires three-member ZBAs such as Lynnfield’s to unanimously approve requests for zoning relief such as Special Permits or variances. After the ZBA rejected the apartment building proposal, the Palumbos filed an appeal in state Land Court.

“The problem with the Land Court is that it takes a great deal of time for anything to be litigated,” said Regnante. “It usually takes two to three years. If the appeal is successful in the Land Court, which we will vigorously prosecute, the plan will be to build the apartment building. If we are unsuccessful, then we would go forward with the restaurant. But economically, we cannot keep the property vacant for a three-year period. Therefore, we need to have the restaurant be in operation.”

Matthew Palumbo said he and his brother have wanted to open a successful restaurant for a long time.

“The concept we came up with is American 160 Bar and Grill,” said Matthew. “American 160 Bar and Grill is going to be a family-run restaurant that is going to have a local Lynnfield pub feel.”

Matthew said the new restaurant will fill a void in town.

“A big reason why we came up with this concept is we have to compete with MarketStreet,” said Matthew. “MarketStreet is beautiful and gorgeous, and there are a lot of successful restaurants that are chains. We can’t compete with that, so we had to do something that is different to fill a need in town that I think is missing. I drive by the 99 Restaurant everyday on my way home and that parking lot is full and the restaurant is full. A lot of the people I grew up with and a lot of people in this town prefer going to the 99 rather than MarketStreet, the reason being is that MarketStreet is expensive and it’s tough to find parking sometimes. A lot of times, people want to put on a pair of jeans and go have a beer with their buddies.”

Matthew said he and his brother believe “American 160 will be a very successful venture in Lynnfield.”

“One being it’s right off the baseball field and we will be able to cater to the families at Newhall Park,” said Matthew. “Another being is Lynnfield is a small town. If we do a good job serving good food and good drinks, word of month will spread quickly throughout town.”

Matthew also said the two brothers are looking to upgrade the restaurant’s function room, which would allow events such as birthday parties and bridal showers to be held there. He said the two brothers have reached out to Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse owner Steve DiFillippo and Tavern in the Square co-owner Joe Arcari in order to learn how to make it in the restaurant business.

“We have a lot of people in our circle and our family who are knowledgeable about the restaurant business who will coach us along,” said Matthew. “Once we open up the doors, we hope that the food is good, the drinks are good and people come back.”

Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford said he is happy a new restaurant will be opening at the Bali Hai site and “a different fragrance will be going through the neighborhood.” However, he said the board wants to make sure the restaurant’s managers and servers are TIP certified and don’t over-serve alcohol. He also said the board wants to make sure the new restaurant respects neighboring residents.

“You are going to have late hours, and you have to be respectful of the noise level and the neighborhood,” said Crawford. “I imagine the neighbors will let us know if something is different than we ask you to do.”

American 160 Bar and Grill manager Steve Cucinatti noted he has a long history working in the restaurant business, as his family owns Orzo Trattoria in North Andover.

“I have had various roles for 12 years,” said Cucinatti.

Selectman Dick Dalton expressed his support for the liquor license transfer.

“We are very fortunate having these people stepping forward,” said Dalton. “I have known Steve and his family for many years. Having the Palumbos invest in the restaurant bodes well for the future of that site.”

Selectman Chris Barrett agreed.

“I know Steve very well,” said Barrett. “Having someone of his character working with the Palumbos gives me confidence.”

Trickett Road resident Wayne Perry inquired what would happen to the liquor license if the Land Court rules in favor of the Palumbo brothers.

Crawford said the liquor license can be sold or turned back into the town.

“Any license sale would need to come back to the Board of Selectmen just as this license sale,” added Assistant Town Administrator Bob Curtin.

After the discussion, the selectmen voted to transfer Bali Hai’s liquor license to MDK Ventures, LLC.

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