Stone Rooster, no Gilda

Apr 21, 2021

MARION — South Coast restaurateurs John Mello and Joe Sauro are looking to reopen the Stone Rooster, without Gilda.

Gilda Downey opened Gilda’s Stone Rooster on Route 6 near the Wareham line in 1979 with her late husband Paul. The bar was known as a mecca for jazz music, and the shows Downey held at the spot landed her a lifetime achievement award in 2014 from the New Bedford Jazz Festival.

Mello and Sauro recently purchased the bar from the now retired Downey, and plan to reopen it, after it closed for the pandemic.

“I got into the business 11 years ago,” Mello said at an April 20 Marion Selectmen’s meeting, where he was looking for an alcohol license for the bar.

Mello’s first venture into the restaurant business was Rose Alley Ale House in New Bedford, where he said the bar was in need of some care when he bought it.

His business partner Sauro is the owner of the Gateway Tavern in Wareham, as well as the Stowaway in Mattapoisett.

The pair’s plan is to “do what we’ve done in the past,” Mello said, and renovate Gilda’s the same way Mello renovated Rose Alley.

The co-owner said he and Sauro are looking to bring food to the bar, something that wasn’t available before.

“We aren’t required to have food,” Mello said. “But we wanna have food.”

But Chris Collings, an abutter to the property and member of the Planning Board, said he and other River Road residents are “not interested” in entertaining street parking “for a new enterprise.”

Collings said he and other residents on the street were supportive of Downey, but are wary of large numbers of cars parking on the street for a renovated establishment under new ownership.

Mello noted that “live entertainment really isn’t part of our business model, so we really don’t expect to have” parking issues.

He said there are a few things at the bar to address before he and Sauro can get it “really up and running,” but the alcohol license “is a first step.”

“I think in the beginning because we wanna get the ball rolling … is just to get it cleaned up and talk to the Board of Health about what we need to get it running from a food standpoint,” Mello said.

He added that the pair may plan to make incremental improvements yearly in the winter months.

But right now, Sauro and Mello’s focus is getting the place open.

“We would love to be open as soon as possible,” Mello said.

He said he “really can’t say” exactly when the bar might reopen, but if the state is timely in approving their liquor license, Mello said he and Sauro “would love to be open for the summer.”

Mello said he and Sauro are finding the “easiest way to brighten it up” while the liquor license is pending, so the bar can open as soon as the license is secure.

But the pair may have to wait a bit longer, as Selectmen continued the hearing for a liquor license at the bar following public comments about the license.

Selectman John Waterman wondered how parking issues affected any decision on a liquor license, but Town Counsel Jon Whitten noted that alcohol licenses limit the number of people permitted inside a building and on its premises.

Mello did recognize that the existing parking lot at the building is small, and that he “wants to work with the neighbors and everything else.”

Collings noted that he anticipated Mello and Sauro would work with the Planning Board to figure out the parking situation at the bar. But Mello wondered whether he and Sauro would have to take their plans to the Planning Board at all.

“But as far as a procedural thing,” Mello said, “since we’re not changing the use, is there a requirement to go before [the planning board]?”

Unless Mello and Sauro plan to make significant changes to the building or the property, they won’t have to appear before the Planning Board, but Mello said he’s “happy to” add no parking signs on River Road.

“If that’s what it takes,” he said. “I mean, I’m not trying to push everything into people’s yards.”

The public hearing on liquor licenses for Stone Rooster Hospitality was moved to 4:45 p.m. on May 4.