Yet another ‘no way’ vote to more fried chicken in Codman Square

“Fried chicken” outlets need not apply in Codman Square. The operator of a franchise that offers that poultry preparation was spurned by the Codman Square Neighborhood Council (CSNC) at its March 6 meeting as members voted to oppose Boston Fried Chicken operator Aftab Ali’s plan to replace the Oriental House Chinese food take-out restaurant at 560 Washington St.

The civic group’s leaders cited existing food options in the square, which includes Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s, as a key reason for the naysaying. The council previously moved to block another fried chicken chain, Popeye’s, which sought to open at a different Washington Street location.

The Oriental House business is up for sale after its long-time owner passed away recently. Ali and his brother have operated their first Boston Fried Chicken location at 999 Blue Hill Ave. for the past two years.

In a statement to the Reporter, CSNC President Cynthia Loesch-Johnson said: “There was concern about the fried chicken being an additional unhealthy option in the community, and the owner not being invested in enhancing the storefront or investing in the community based on what he shared about his other location. There was not support for this establishment in Codman Square.”

Loesch-Johnson said Ali is welcomed to pitch a different approach to the business that would address the concerns brought by CSNC, and the Council agreed to hear him out. “Stay tuned,” she said.

For his part, Ali said he came to the council at the behest of the landlord, who didn’t want “another Popeye’s” situation.
“I know the community is concerned about the food coming to the community,” he said. “The reason I’m here is that I want to do more with this location. I know it’s fried chicken, but I have other things like gyros, hamburgers, and salads. The big thing is fried chicken, that is true…The food I’m bringing is not more unhealthy than the one that exists there now.” He also noted that fried chicken items make up about 20 percent of the proposed menu.

He told the council members gathered at the Great Hall and on Zoom that, if approved, he intended to open in about four months and have 30 seats for dine-in customers – in addition to a takeout business. While his location on Blue Hill Avenue is almost primarily fried chicken, he said he inherited that and wanted to do more in Codman Square.

“It’s a really good spot,” he said. “I want to open up a better place and put money into it to make it better.” He added that he would “consider” changing the name, so that ‘fried chicken’ isn’t on the sign.

Neighbor Dana Richardson said if a restaurant is located in Codman Square, he wanted the owner listen to the community about the menu offerings.

“I’d like you to really involve the suggestions from the community,” he said. “There are a lot of us that don’t want to travel distances to get the food we want. We don’t just like fried chicken around here.”

The lack of support follows a lukewarm reception last fall from the council for a plan to relocate the Domino’s Pizza franchise in Fields Corner to the former Citizens Bank property in Codman Square. That plan was withdrawn earlier this year.

The Popeye’s proposal to locate in Codman Square resulted in a years-long legal battle between some neighbors and the national chain while the storefront, though built out with more than $1 million in investment, remained vacant until the lease ran out last year. Popeye’s never opened.

Codman Square Notebook

• A bid for Governor’s Council – Stacy Borden, of Grove Hall, appeared at the CSNC to announce her run for District 4’s seat on the Governor’s Council. A newcomer to politics, Borden said she grew up in Roxbury, lived in Dorchester, and fell into drugs and incarceration when she was younger. Having found a new path in life running a re-entry program from her home, she is now pursuing the Council post, which, most importantly, vets and decides yes or no on nominated judges for state courts.

“It’s probably the most important position that affects our community, particularly Black and Brown people,” she said. “There has never been a person of color on that board and that’s out of line.”

She noted that 72 percent of judges come from a police or district attorney’s office background, and she’d like more public defenders to get a shot at the seats, and for the Council to dig into those with law enforcement backgrounds.
“We need the right people to vet these judges and people trying to become judges and ask them simple questions,” she said. “If they say ‘no,’ then I say ‘no.’ We need to change these courts.”

Borden needs 1,000 signatures before April 30 to get on the ballot.

•The police beat for Codman Square has remained quiet for the third month in a row, and no one is unhappy about that. Police did report one concerning firearm incident on Alpha Road on Feb. 15.

Around 5:23 a.m., police said a 22-year-old man from Lawrence was going down the street knocking on doors. Police responded and found him on a front porch. Upon seeing them, police said, he dropped a .38 caliber firearm that was fully loaded. The resident of the home had no idea who he was. Police believe he was likely trying to commit a home invasion and he was charged with five felonies.

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