NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Anger over constant construction delays on the Ross J. Rajotte Memorial Bridge, and fear that another local business will close, prompted Northbridge selectmen on Monday to waive a $1,150 liquor license renewal fee.
Laurieann Kayhart, owner of Laurieann’s Restaurant on Providence Road in Rockdale, requested relief from the fee because the state project has been disrupting her business for almost two years.
At Monday’s meeting, selectmen exempted Kayhart from the fee, placing blame for her financial problems firmly with the state Department of Transportation.
Laurieann’s Restaurant is on the south side of the Ross J. Rajotte Memorial Bridge, which has been a state construction zone for about 18 months.
The $4 million bridge reconstruction was originally to be a year-long project scheduled for completion last August, but months of inactivity have put the project at least a year behind schedule.
The front of the restaurant is often blocked by large construction vehicles. “It ties up all our parking. Patrons are afraid to pull into the parking lot, seniors are scared to pull in due to heavy equipment and other times I am completely shut down because the entire lot is blocked,’’ Kayhart writes.
“There are weeks, due to lack of business, we have to throw all the food away,’’ she said.
“This is a very, very unique situation,’’ said Selectman Thomas J. Melia said who made the motion to forgive Kayhart the fee.
“Driving by and you never see anyone working; just basically talking. This should have been corrected a long time ago,’’ Melia said.
“We saw Friendly’s close; we saw Aubuchon’s close. What’s next? They’re close to closing,’’ Melia said of Laurieann’s.
“I’m here tonight to try to help you out,’’ he said to Kayhart who attended the meeting.
Selectman Chairman Daniel Nolan said he was somewhat concerned the board was setting a precedent, but Melia pointed out Kayhart’s issue was “unique’’ and Selectman Charles Ampagoomian noted the board considers such requests on a “case-by-case’’ basis.
Selectmen plan to invite Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, Sen. Richard T. Moore and Rep. George Peterson, R-Grafton to the first board meeting in January to discuss the bridge issue.
“We need to put our feet down and make a strong point,’’ Ampagoomian said.