Matunuck’s newest eatery will soon pair its wood fired pizzas with craft beers and local artisan wines, which owners hope will help them build a successful business in the waterfront village after being granted a class B Liquor License Monday night.
The Town Council’s 3-1 decision on Monday night increased the number of Class B Limited liquor licenses in the town by one to a total of four. La Strada Café and Pizzeria was later awarded a limited liquor license to serve beer and wine only to patrons until 10:30 p.m. Council member Kathleen Fogarty was the only one to vote down the measure; Town Council President Ella Whaley was absent.
The 500-home village is already home to and , two decades-old bars and restaurants whose panoramic ocean views keep their decks full throughout the summer. La Strada owner Jennifer Olbrich, a South Kingstown resident, told the council her pizzeria will fulfill a different niche in the beachside community, serving inventive specialty pizzas and catering to a family-friendly environment.
“We want to offer something different and be able to pair beer and wine with our food,” she said.
Local bar owners, while voicing of the restaurant, disagreed with the council’s decision and worried what would become of the liquor license if La Strada shuts down.
“It seems to be a really good concept,” said Fran O’Brien, co-owner of Tara’s Joyce Family Pub, which is located across the street from the pizzeria on Matunuck Beach Road. “But do we really need another liquor license within 200 yards?”
Kevin Finnegan, owner of the Ocean Mist on Matunuck Beach Road, worried the whether the liquor license could be scooped up by another establishment if the pizzeria didn’t survive.
“I think there is a need for a family place like, but if it doesn’t work out, who’s going to pick up the pieces,” he asked. “I welcome them; don’t misread what I’m saying. I’m not afraid of a liquor license and competition.”
Town Manager Stephen Alfred said that with the release of 2010 Census date and that an increasing town population could support another liquor-serving restaurant. He said with an unemployment rate sitting stagnant at about 10 percent, he eluded that another successful restaurant in town could also help create local jobs.
“This is not something to be taken lightly,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Fogarty. She said the town’s policy toward granting liquor licenses was inconsistent and too lenient and said problems with liquor establishments strained town resources. “It is a concentrated area over there and that is also where we have most of our problems in the summer. We seriously, as the Town Council need to consider what we are doing there and prove it’s controllable and that we are not just handing liquor licenses out willy nilly.”
“I think we are very careful and take each case as its own.” said council Vice President Carol Hagan-McEntee. “With these economic times it is very difficult to start a new business and a liquor license can only help. They won’t serve after 10:30, so I think it is a good decision and uniquely different from the other two bars.”
The restaurant opened two weeks ago, and delivers to nearby neighborhoods. Nine specialty handmade pies that call on local cheeses and vegetables make La Strada the pizzeria Matunuck has been missing, Olbrich said. One pizza recipe, The Carpenter, pays homage to the nearby beach community with hand stretched dough smothered in fresh spinach, San Marzano tomato sauce, sausages, carmelized onions and oozes with heaps of fresh mozzarella from Narragansett Creamery.
- , located at 323 Main St., was granted permission, 4-0, to expand the area in which alcohol is served in the establishment to its second floor dining room.
- The Town Council approved the wages and pay schedule for non-unionized town employees, approximately 40 in total. According to Alfred, salaries reflected a 2.25 percent increase of the current year.