The Wendy’s location right before Flagg Road on Route 9 has closed. According to Board of Selectman Chair Lisa Braccio, the closure was abrupt and appeared to be an economic decision by corporate. Back in 2016, a newer Wendy’s was opened on Route 9 in Framingham, bordering Southborough. (That location is still opened.)
The closure is the second Southborough restaurant I’m aware of closing this year. The other was Pizza 19 at 150 Framingham Road.
The pizzeria closure wasn’t related to the economy. This summer, the restaurant was closed on September 2nd due to safety violations. Issues were discussed at Board of Health meetings in September.
Under a regional services grant, Southborough contracted a Food and Housing Inspector in August. On September 9th, Inspector Diane Legere explained to BOH that the initial inspection involving the Fire Department, was triggered by a complaint about the housing conditions above the establishment.
The smell of gas and sight of oil at the rear hood vent prompted investigation of the first floor restaurant. Based on serious violations with the restaurant and building not up to code, there was an emergency closing. The biggest issue was described as a fire hazard, with no protection in place for the above tenants. (You can scroll down for more details on that.)
Ultimately, the pizza place didn’t reopen. Recently, the landlord put the building on the market.
Food Inspections and Annual Licenses
The news about Wendy’s was shared when the Board of Selectmen were voting to approve annual licenses for restaurants and food establishments this week. Apparently, the Assistant Town Administrator discovered the closure when she tried to use the drive thru this week. Staff followed up with their contact for the annual license who confirmed the closure was permanent.
The BOS had delayed the license approvals earlier this month at Vice Chair Chelsea Malinowski’s request.
Malinowski also serves as the Board of Health Chair. The Public Health Director had shared in a December 7th BOH meeting that two establishments had temporarily, voluntarily closed to address violations. They hoped to soon complete the follow up inspections. At that evening’s BOS meeting, Malinowski asked to hold approvals until all of the Food Inspections could be completed.
On December 14th, Malinowski indicated that all but one establishment on the Common Victualer license list had been inspected. Since that one didn’t have any known issues, she didn’t see a need to keep holding up approvals.
Malinowski updated that the Health Department and Inspector have been working diligently with all restaurants in town to get everyone educated, then conducting full inspections. They work with establishments to get them where they need to be. Town Administrator Mark Purple said that establishments are actively working with the BOH and staff to resolve any outstanding issues. He noted that if a non-compliance problem comes up, the Board can address that when it happens.
The safety inspections are one of the foundational responsibilities the Board of Health has sought to better fulfill in recent years. (In late 2019, the state issued a “Blueprint” for Board of Health departments across the state.)
150 Framingham Road’s “unique situation”
In Legere’s initial briefing, she explained that the restaurant (Pizza 19) had failed a scheduled follow up inspection. Given the advance notice, Legere noted her alarm and concern that anything could be reoopened without some kind of safeguards in place. She said there were 60 violations in total with 14 “priority foundation violations”, which means they were an imminent health risk.
Legere said that in some instances, they are able to work with owners on gradually bringing a building into compliance, but not when there is a life safety issue.
She clarified that the violations and code issues are ultimately landlords’ responsibility. However, based on lease agreements, they can argue with tenants over responsibility for some aspects.
Legere opined that under current code the operation of a restaurant in that space would never have been allowed.
The Inspector praised the Fire Department for a great job working with 4 of 5 residents to make sure their living space was made safe. (The 5th living space was illegal use of a secondary egress space.) She assured that she and the SFD would be making random stops and could begin issuing fines if the landlord wasn’t compliant.
In the September 29th meeting, Legere indicated it was unlikely a restaurant could be reopened in the building. Among the issues was adequate sewage for a restaurant. At that time, the landlord was seeking Title V to allow the use.
At the December 7th BOH meeting, Public Health Director said that the establishment was closed, stating it was not code.
Worth noting, the building is currently being marketed as a as a 5 bedroom mixed-use with downstairs restaurant.