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Saugus board won’t bite on LongHorn Steakhouse request

SAUGUS — Selectmen had trouble grabbing the idea of a new steakhouse at Sears Automotive by the horns Wednesday night.

LongHorn Steakhouse requested a liquor license held by New Ki-Ku-Ya, Inc., which was doing business as Sake Japanese Restaurant, be transferred to the company for a new restaurant to be located at the current Sears Automotive building.

An attorney representing the company said part of Sears Automotive would be taken down and rebuilt into a restaurant. But the shop is still operating beside the Square One Mall.

Because the restaurant is almost a year and a half from opening, Chairwoman Debra Panetta and Town Manager Scott Crabtree questioned whether it was premature to grant the license transfer.

“You’re transferring to a concept right now,” said Crabtree. “Nothing has been filed.

“To me, you’d want to see more of the process of something that’s going to come to fruition,” he said. “We’ve been through that before, we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees trying to get licenses back.”

Selectmen Scott Brazis shared the trepidation.

“This was an automotive site,” said Brazis, who added that the restaurant is something he would want in town. “What if you find out that the soil has been contaminated? I don’t know if there’s oil or gas that has leaked into the ground.”

The project has not yet gone before the Planning Board and plans have not yet been filed, said Crabtree, who believes there will be a lot more information available in a month.

The request was continued to a Sept. 12 meeting, which a representative from Sake Restaurant and the building’s landlord are expected to attend. Selectmen urged the proponents to work with the building inspector over the next month to get a better outline on the project.

There are more than 490 LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants in the United States.

LongHorn’s parent organization, Darden Restaurants, Inc., a publicly traded company based in Florida, is affiliated with more than 1,500 restaurants across the United States. The group owns several restaurant chains including The Capital Grille, Olive Garden, and Yard House.

If approved, the $3 million construction project would be completed in the summer of 2019 and the restaurant expects to open at the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020.

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