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Council Subcommittee Debates BYOB

Tammy Daniels

Mark and Renee Lapier, right, speak with the General Government Committee of Lisa Blackmer, Chairman Keith Bona and Michael Boland about developing a BYOB ordinance.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee will look for expertise from public safety and the License Commission as it attempts to craft a so-called "bring your own bottle" ordinance.

BYOB restaurants are becoming popular in some areas; Big Shirl's Kitchen is the first in the city to seek guidance on how to operate as one. The committee met Wednesday to begin dicussions on the issue.

State law does not regulate BYOB other than stating venues with alcohol licenses may not allow BYOB. Because it is not covered by state law, municipalities can create ordinances to regulate it.

City Councilor David Lamarre, a former member of the License Commission, questioned the need for a BYOB ordinances when the city has no limit on alcohol licenses. "It just seems to me unnecessary."

Mark and Renee Lapier, owners of Big Shirl's, said they were not oppposed to licensing and regulation but were thinking of the convenience of their patrons and not the overhead that would come with a liquor license.

The small, 40-seat restaurant would have to expand for storage space for alcohol and add anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 to its insurance bill, said Mark Lapier. To cover that cost, "we'd have to push the booze I don't want do that."

Lamarre said the city could lose in meals tax if people began going to Big Shirl's with their own bottles. Renee Lapier said more sales of meals might make up for that.

Committee member Lisa Blackmer said she didn't think BYOB is the tipping point for diners.

"I think people decide to go to a restaurant because of the food," she said.

Committee member Michael Boland worried that too much attention was being paid to the needs of a single restaurant.

"We should be doing what is good for the community, not what's good for Big Shirl's," he said.

Chairman Keith Bona agreed but said the Lapiers' concerns should be taken into consideration. In questioning both the couple and Lamarre, it was decided the ordinance should look at licensing and fees; waitstaff TIPS (alcohol serving) training; state open bottle laws, hours of operation and compliance.

The committee will invite E. John Morocco, retired public safety commissioner, and License Commission Chairman Jeff Polucci to its next meeting in August to discuss the issue in more depth.

 

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