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Expansion Plans Slated for Border Cafe

By Christopher R. Mcfadden

Long lines outside the Border Cafe should shrink, thanks to an expansion approved last week by the Cambridge License Commission.

After months of negotiations, the commission voted to allow the Church Street restaurant to add 25 seats and permit another 10 people in its indoor waiting area.

To accommodate the additional customers, the Border has leased space in the basement of the former Book Case Shop next door. They will also remodel their kitchen and install an elevator to make the basement wheelchair-accessible.

The request was granted on the condition that the cafe control the crowds that gather outside its doors and in the Palmer Street alleyway, said Richard V. Scali, acting chair of the Cambridge License Commission.

"We had received complaints that customers were hanging around the store, blocking pedestrian and vehicular traffic," he said. "We need them to keep patrons inside rather than outdoors."

Responding to complaints made last November by the Harvard Square Defense Fund--a group committed to preserving the integrity of Harvard Square--the commission issued a three-day suspension of the restaurant's license and ordered them to develop a proposal for crowd control.

In April, the Border asked the license commission for permission to expand occupancy by creating a 40-person waiting area which would be both food and alcohol free. But the request was denied because it would be difficult to monitor alcohol consumption in such a crowded area, said Scali.

In the current expansion, no liquor will be served in either the waiting area or at the new tables in the basement.

"The commissioners will allow no more liquor licenses in Harvard Square," Scali said.

J. Michael Larkin, president of the Border Cafe, called the commission's actions "unwarranted and unnecessary."

"Crowds were no problem," he said. "No residents complained, and there is less congestion here than in most of the Square."

Although Larkin was upset that the Border had been "singled out for discipline," he said he would cooperate with city officials to control crowds outside the restaurant.

Calling the restaurant "one of [Cambridge's] rare problem cases." Salvi said he hopes the changes will force its owners to exercise "more careful control of the establishment."

The Border leases its space from Harvard Real Estate (HRE). Kristen F. Demong, president of HRE, said the restaurant's managers are "committed to clearing up any problems with street traffic and are sincere about following the city's wishes."

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