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Town Seeks to Add New Liquor Licenses By Special Legislation

Selectmen have added a new warrant article for the February Special Town Meeting to consider seeking six new alcohol licenses for the town beyond its population-based quota.

Danvers Town Hall
Danvers Town Hall
Alcohol licenses are currently all used up in Danvers so the town is looking to add some more licenses to its inventory.

The Board of Selectmen approved a new warrant article Tuesday night for the upcoming Special Town Meeting for voters to consider a home rule petition to state lawmakers to create six new licenses for Danvers by special legislation.

The request for a home rule petition, if approved at Town Meeting, will then go before the Joint Committee on Professional Licensure and need approval from both the state House and Senate and an eventual signature from the governor.

Selectmen Chairman Gardner Trask said the intent is basically to provide the town with a handful of extra licenses it can issue at its discretion to worthy applicants.

Pointing to the city's effort in Peabody to seek 10 new licenses by special legislation, Danvers selectmen have been talking about the issue in recent weeks and various options to increase access to alcohol for small businesses who might want to open up a new eatery in town. The ultimate goal is economic development and business growth.

Cities and towns in Massachusetts are limited to a quota of alcohol licenses depending on the size of their population by legislation first passed in the 1930s during the prohibition era.

These days, even local licensing authorities feel it's an unfair and antiquated law, as Selectman Dan Bennett pointed out Tuesday, saying the law itself should be changed.

A way around that has been to allow "over quota" licenses to be created by petition. Both Sawasdee Danvers and McKinnon's Market received their licenses that way.

Trask submitted a draft proposal Tuesday night, saying he spoke at length with state Rep. Ted Speliotis and received some guidance on language for the bill.

The proposal that will end up before Town Meeting voters Feb. 3 will be very specific on a number of points, prohibiting over quota license holders from selling those licenses within three years of first receiving them and once that period expires, maintaining a restriction that the licenses stay at the same location.

The proposal does not identify specific sites for the licenses, but states they would be limited to locations and even business entities once issued. The draft language will also state that licenses may be reissued by selectmen to another entity at the same location if the licenses are revoked or no longer in use by the original applicant.

A further restriction is that licenses created this way would only allow for alcohol to be drunk on the premises.

Bennett was initially hesitant to support the proposal that night, saying selectmen need to make sure they don't just rush through the process, given that it could a year or more for the petition to pass through the legislature.

Ultimately, the proposal did receive full support from the board and will also be subject to review by town counsel.

As the discussion turned to successes and failures of past home rule petitions for alcohol licenses, the consensus was that petitioners needed to follow through on the process from start to finish. In this case, with the town in that role, Trask promised to follow through with both Speliotis and state Sen. Joan Lovely.

He said he's also asked Speliotis to appear before the board at its Jan. 21 meeting to further discuss the issue.

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