NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local package and liquor stores will be alerted to a resumption of compliance checks this summer.
Wendy Penner, director of prevention and wellness with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, told the Licensing Board on Tuesday that compliance checks haven't been done through her organization in three years because of a more concentrated focus on reaching younger children and parents.
"With our new round of funding, we did an assessment of what youth were using, what their at-risk factors were and how they accessing [substances]," she said. "The reason we discontinued the compliance checks was because — we can't really know what's happening between 19 or 20-year-olds — but with the school-age kids it wasn't something they were focusing on."
Instead, the coalition's NB21 prevention program found younger children were more likely to access alcohol in the home or through acquaintances than attempt underage purchases. But that doesn't mean compliance checks of retailers still aren't important as another educational tool.
"We don't have the funding to pay people to do compliance checks but we can still train youth, we can still recruit adult volunteers," Penner said. "This year, I set aside a little bit of extra funds. I don't think we should go three years without doing compliance checks ... so we will be conducting those this summer with North Adams Police."
It will be up to the Licensing Board to determine the consequences for failed compliance checks, she said.
"We do have consequences," said Chairman Jeffrey Polucci. "Although try as we might, we don't actually do straight across the board. It depends on their history ... They were very aware of your checks so I don't know if you need them every year but once in awhile."
Penner said her hope is that everyone will pass and "we will feel like we aren't being remiss." Although local checks haven't been done in some time, the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission has continued to spot check, said board member Rosemari Dickinson.
"They notify us that they've done them but they do the punishing," she said. "They have their hearings in Boston."
Penner said NB21's focus is reaching children as young as 9 years old and educating their parents on how to speak with them. The earlier they begin drinking, the more likely they are to become addicted, injured or move on to more powerful drugs, she said.
"Alcohol is the No. 1 drug problem among youth, killing more young people than all other illicit drugs combined," Penner said. The NB21 assessment found that by eighth grade, 11 percent reported they'd used alcohol within the past 30 days.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, a convenience store manager was told to resubmit his application for a package store license because of missing and incorrect information.
Mustafa Jamal, who with his brothers recently purchased the Xtramart on Ashland Street, is seeking a beer and wine license under the new operating name of EZ Mart (North Adams Gas Realty Co.). Jamal's application, however, had so much missing information that the board recommended he have an attorney help fill it out.
Jamal did not list himself as owner, despite the application including the minutes of the corporation showing that he was a voting member and had voted along with his brothers. He also does not have a permanent address in the area yet, which is required to apply for a license.
"Make sure that all the owners of record are listed on that first page," Polucci told him.
Jamal said his family owns more than two dozen convenience stores in several states, including two others in Massachusetts but that there are different variations of family investment in each location. Neither of the two other Massachusetts store/gas stations sell alcohol.
Board member Peter Breen also raised the issue of the convenience store's proximity to a school — the newly established North Berkshire Academy.
"You're not allowed to have alcohol sold within 500 feet of a K-12 school," Breen said.
Jamal said he was unaware of the special education school that opened in the Armory in January. The city-owned building also houses the public school system's alternative high school program, the E3 Academy.
"We're going to ask for our city solicitor if it's a real issue," Polucci told Jamal. He said the commission would also contact the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.
Polucci also raised concerns over alcohol storage; Jamal said the store was considering only sales of beer at this point and didn't plan to have large amounts on hand, pending how sales went. A larger storage setup could be added on in the back, he said.
An abuttor and longtime former Xtramart employee questioned the need for another package store — especially so close to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"We need another liquor store in our neighborhood?" asked Kathleen Lyon. "We have enough problems with the college kids ... do we really need another setup of alcohol in the college area?"
The commission tabled the application until a new form could be submitted and the school issue clarified.
In other business:
• The commission approved an umbrella entertainment license for The Green on Main Street, a space affiliated with Terra Nova Church and used for community events. Stephen Klass, a member The Green's board of advisors, said license was to cover community and fundraising events that have been averaging about once a month.
"We thought it would be easier for the folks who do use it to have an umbrella license," he said, rather than coming to the commission for one-day events. Any group wanting to serve alcohol in the space would be required to obtain and be responsible for an alcohol license.
• The commission approved the license for noon to midnight with the caveat that any residential complaints would mean revisiting conditions.
Greylock Works was approved for a one-day license from 8 to midnight for the dance party scheduled this Saturday. This is the third dance party approved at the former textile mill this year.
Sophie Grant said the event and bar would be operated in the same way as the last two events with identification checks and stamps at the entrance. No one under 21 will be admitted. The event will have two TIPS-certified checkers at the door
• A second farmer's market license for the mill's Heirloom event on July 28 was tabled until the July meeting because of questions on the application (which had odd hours) and there was no representative of the purveyor, Carr's Ciderhouse, to answer them.
• The next meeting is scheduled for July 17 at 1 p.m.
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