North Adams to Consider Adding Liquor License

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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V&V in the city's downtown is asking for special legislation for an all-alcohol license. The store currently offers beer and wine, as well as a deli.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Some city officials are concerned that adding a fifth all-liquor license will water down existing business.

And some are wondering just how many liquor stores the city really needs.

The state says North Adams already has one more than allowed under regulations that assign licenses per 5,000 residents.

But V&V, Steeple City Liquors, is hoping to add harder alcohol to its large selection of beers and wines.

The City Council on Tuesday night referred the matter to the Public Safety Committee after a "conflicted" Mayor Richard Alcombright asked for permission to submit a home-rule petition to the Legislature for a fifth license.

The License Commission last month voted 2-1 against recommending the petition, the mayor said, but he was bringing forth the proposal at the request of Steeple City Plaza owner Neil Ellis.

The store opened last fall in the former Staples space and is being operated by Louis Matney Jr.

Alcombright was concerned the petition could set a precedent, but noted Ellis had made significant investment in the city's downtown.

Councilor Jennifer Breen said she wholeheartedly supported the petition.

"I feel strongly pro business right now," she said. "I feel like we should give this new business a chance to thrive in North Adams.  

"I don't think an extra liquor license is a detriment to the community."

On the opposite side was Councilor Wayne Wilkinson.

"I am dead set against another liquor license," he said. "The law is the law."

Adding another license would have a detrimental effect on existing businesses, said Wilkinson.

David Whitney of Whitney's Beverage Shop said his family's business has "served the needs of this area for 76 years."

He asked the council to reject the petition and said the mayor had promised to stand behind the License Commission's decision.

Richard Sheehan, of Ed's Variety, on the other hand, said he had worked hard to support the community, too. If all-liquor alcohol licenses were being handed out, he wanted in.

"It would be a completely level playing field," he said.

Councilor Keith Bona seemed to agree, saying he had a problem with the government restricting certain businesses.

The city doesn't limit the number of pizzerias, drugstores or restaurants, he said, and each new business inevitably affects established ones.

"It's not up to us to decide who can compete and not compete," Bona, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said. "... It should come down to the consumer."

The city has had more licenses in the past and most recently lost the one held by the former Modern Liquors.

V&V's attorney, Michele Butler of Cain Hibbard & Myers, said the business had tried to obtain that license but found it was no longer available because of the results of the most recent U.S. Census. The city's population is around 13,000.

Other councilors said their feelings were mixed on how to proceed (including on making more alcohol available) and that they wanted to hear more from constituents.

Councilor Joshua Moran said it would be up to V&V to convince him of the need for a license.

"I just challenge you to say why do we need five," he said.

In other business:

The council briefly reviewed the revenue package being proposed by the administration for fiscal 2015. The matter will be taken up at Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Students from Drury High School gave a presentation on ideas to make the city better.

The council also referred to committee a letter from Councilor Benjamin Lamb on waste and debris dumped at the city reservoir and one from Councilor Eric Buddington to designate North Adams a right-to-farm community.

Tags: alcohol license,   home rule petition,   Legislature,   license board,   liquor license,   

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