The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday finalized new guidelines for liquor license approval after hearing from representatives of former businesses about their difficulties in selling the licenses.
The focus on the licenses is because of different opinions on how the town and businesses should benefit from the licenses distribution. The town issues liquor licenses, but local businesses can sell them if their needs change.
Selectmen view the licenses as a “town asset.” The board is reviewing new regulations on inactive licenses. The proposal, which town counsel will review, include:
- Licenses could be inactive for no more than six months before licensees must petition the Board of Selectmen for an extension. The board would grant no more than two extensions, totaling 18 months.
- If the licensee fails to appear before the board to receive an extension once the license is inactive for more than six months, the board would schedule a public hearing to consider whether to suspend, revoke, or take other action on the license.
- The new guidelines would propose that businesses be forbidden from using the licenses to secure a loan from a third party.
Selectman Gardner Trask is leading the effort to revise the guidelines and codify the selectmen’s expectations and intent when issuing liquor licenses. He called the town taking over unused licenses a "local stimulus" because sometimes the licenses sit unused because a former business, which still has the license, tries to sell it at a steep price.
Selectman Chair Michael Powers concurred with this view.
“We wish you well, but our role is to ensure the licenses are utilized for the benefit of the community,” said Powers while questioning license holder Dean Borders, manager of the Maple Street Tavern, as to when he would be ready to open his renovated restaurant after construction delays. (Borders said within 60 days.)
But business representatives – even those representing businesses that have shut their doors – consider the licenses to be valuable assets.
Alan Byrne of Danversbank explained that the bank held the liquor license from the former Tequila’s at 80 Newbury St. as loan collateral. After the restaurant closed in June 2009, the bank has since been trying to sell the license, but Byrne said that there has been no interest.
Attorney Thomas Demakis, representing the owners of the former Jimmy Allenhurst’s who are also trying to sell their license, concurred with Byrne’s statement.
“The economy stinks and...bankers are not financing independent businesses,” he said.
Selectmen appeared skeptical, however, asking both Byrne and Demakis whether the licenses were priced too high. Selectmen explained that they had received “significant interest” in licenses.
“If the price is too much, then Danversbank, like a lot of other banks, made a bad investment,” Selectman Bill Clark said to Byrne.
“It hasn’t been the number; it’s been that nobody’s interested” in buying the license, Byrne replied.
Demakis requested that the selectmen put him in contact with any interested parties.
“I’ve heard [the selectmen say] people want to buy. I would love to hear it, because my clients want to sell.”
Another part of the new regulations that selectmen are reviewing stipulates that there may be harsher penalties for offenses related to overserving or, in particular, the serving of minors.
In other business:
- Selectmen approved applications from Verizon to install approximately 14 feet of underground wiring on Florence and High streets, and 401 feet of underground wiring and a supporting equipment cabinet on High Street near the Route 128 overpass.
- Police Chief Neil Ouellete reported that all the public establishments in town except for the Grassfields Bar and Grill, on Andover Street, passed a liquor compliance check. The Grassfields Bar and Grill will appear before the board for allegedly serving a minor.
- The town will begin issuing $10 million in temporary notes today, Wednesday, Feb. 9. The notes will be for financing the new high school, and Town Manager Wayne Marquis anticipated that the money raised should cover the project costs through July. At that time, the town will sell $25 million worth of bonds to fund the remainder of the project.
- Selectmen congratulated varsity girls basketball co-captain Kellie Macdonald for scoring her 1,000th career point in the team’s game against Masconomet Regional High School on Sunday.