The Harbour House, a waterside restaurant usually ignored by the late-night party crowd, will be sold with its 2 a.m. zoning intact despite local restaurateurs' protests, city officials said yesterday.
The city granted the property's conditional use permit with no limits on the hours of operation years ago, so the city cannot impose an earlier closing time now that it is for sale, Eileen Fogarty, planning and zoning director, said.
Ms. Fogarty made the decision on the advice of City Attorney Paul G. Goetzke. Earlier, she had suggested the restaurant might have lost its right to a 2 a.m. closing time because of a "use it or lose it" clause in city law.
Harbour House owners showed planning officials guest checks and time cards to prove the restaurant did business into the early-morning hours.
Word of the impending sale of Harbour House stirred a tempest downtown earlier this year.
In March, Ward 1 Alderman Louise Hammond, who usually fights late-night closings in the historic district, argued that the 500-seat restaurant at the end of City Dock should be sold with its license for 2 a.m. closing intact.
Neighboring restaurant owners, many of whom have clashed with Mrs. Hammond, accused her of playing favorites, noting that the Harbour House is owned by George Phillips, her longtime friend and campaign contributor.
The 2 a.m. license adds value to the sale price of the restaurant because such licenses aren't available to new restaurants downtown.
Kurt A. Phillips, Mr. Phillips' son who helps manage Harbour House, said the 2 a.m. license was a condition of the sale to Raymond Lubrano, who also owns Cantina D'Italia and Mama Lucia, in suburban shopping centers. Mr. Lubrano hopes to take over Harbour House in October, renovate it and reopen in February.
The Harbour House has been a family business since George Phillips built it 35 years ago.