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Longhorn Steakhouse put on the Saugus menu

SAUGUS — Proponents who want to build a steakhouse at Sears Automotive on Route 1 were granted a liquor license from the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night.

Selectmen decided to approve the transfer of a liquor license held by New Ki-Ku-Ya, Inc., which has been doing business as Sake Japanese Restaurant, to Longhorn Steakhouse.  

An attorney representing restaurant owner Chien Ming Chen said the license is being sold to help Chen raise funds to pay back taxes owed to the town.

“I think we have a reputable business coming into Saugus,” said Selectman Mark Mitchell. “It’s not more condos, its not more housing. I think it would be a great addition in place of what’s there at the moment.”

The request was presented to the board a month ago, but selectmen chose to continue the hearing until more information was available.

LongHorn’s proposal was for a 192-seat restaurant with TVs. It will be open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will stay open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

A conceptual drawing, created by Bohler Engineering and submitted in a package sent to the Board of Selectmen on Aug. 2, shows four units in the building, including the 6,400-square-foot restaurant and three other spaces just over 4,000-square-feet each.

An attorney representing LongHorn 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 at a meeting last month.

Selectmen Scott Brazis shared the trepidation, adding that the site has not been checked for contamination after being home to a car service. Selectmen urged the proponents to work with the building inspector to get a better outline on the project before Wednesday’s meeting.

Attorney Richard Magnan reported Wednesday that developers met with the Town Planner in February to go over the conceptual proposal and entered the pre-application process, which includes a meeting at Town Hall with department heads, in April.

“All department heads were there to look at conceptual plans and make comments,” said Magnan. “We responded to comments from them via (a) letter. Currently there is a signed lease contingent on the permit.”

A meeting with the Town Manager’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled for Thursday night. The board voted that approval of the license was contingent upon several things, including the petitioner filing with all necessary boards and commissions within four months of Sept. 12. A representative will provide updates on the team’s progress once a month at board meetings.  

Should developers fail to file within the four months, the board will have the right to terminate the transfer and take the license back, said selectman Jeff Cicolini, who made the motion.

The decision was also contingent on all past due fees being paid in agreement with the collector treasurer.

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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