NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The Licensing Board on Tuesday voted not to support any actions toward a home-rule petition to add another all-alcoholic retail license in the city.
David Atwell, owner of Dave's Package Store at the corner of Eagle and River streets, had approached the commission seeking information about how he could gain a license to sell hard liquor.
Atwell said it was feedback from his customers over the past year that had lead him to consider changing his license.
"Since we've been open, almost 13 months now, at a location that was a full liquor store since 1959 until a few years ago, I get a lot of requests for hard liquor," he said, particularly from older people in the neighborhood, walkers and people heading up to Clarksburg or Vermont now that the state liquor store in Stamford is closed. "I'm mainly looking for some guidance from you."
There had been a bit of musical chairs action related to Atwell's location. The liquor store business, Lopardo's, had been established in 1933 by Michael Lopardo and moved to the River Street site in 1959 following the demolition of its previous building during the Central Artery Project.
The business closed a few years ago and was purchased by the former River Street Package Store when its location farther west on River was purchased and demolished. V&V (Steeple City Spirits), which also had at first sought a home-rule petition to expand its offerings, bought its all-alcohol license and the package store reverted to a new wine and beer license. Then River Street closed and Atwell bought the building and applied for a new package store license a year ago.
When V&V had requested a home-rule petition in 2014, the Licensing Board had recommended against it.
"At that time, we did not feel there was a need, it was a 2-1 [vote]," said board member Rosemari Dickinson. Instead, the board had encouraged V&V's owners to purchase an existing license.
The city has four all-alcohol licenses. That's one more than it should have, according to the state, which sets the ratio at one license to every 5,000 people. Current holders are V&V, Whitney's Beverage Shop, Draper's Wine & Spirits, and West's Wine & Spirits.
Chairman Jeffrey Polucci said Atwell could still pursue a home-rule petition through the mayor's office or City Council but "you would still have to come back to us to accept it."
"If I get direction from you guys that you don't think it's a good idea, then I'm fine," Atwell said. "The business is strong, I like doing it. It's more of a request from people."
The former restaurateur said he had not planned to extensive expanding his offerings if he got the license. He'd upgraded his wine and craft beer selections in response to requests and would add limited hard liquor choices as a convenience to his patrons.
Because his customer base has included the Porches Inn as well as Clarksburg and the area northeast, he thought "logistically it would make sense," but Dickinson said the board could not consider areas not within the city's limits. He could purchase a license from an existing entity, she said, but Atwell responded that the one for sale also involved leases and inventory and would not be worth the investment and he did not want to run two locations.
Among the reasons the board gave for not recommending was "saturation of the area," which had also led them to reject a beer and wine license last year for EZ Mart on Ashland Street. At that time, Dave's had been included as part of the saturation.
"There's a lot of concern about how many there are in a very small area," said member Peter Breen, referencing the two other downtown stores Whitney's and V&V.
EZ Mart had appealed the rejection of a beer and wine license to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Polucci had gone to the hearing held on Nov. 6, 2018. This week, the ABCC delivered an opinion that supported the Licensing Board's decision.
The opinion referred to Ballarin Inc. v. Licensing Board of Boston, in which the Appeals Court stated licensing boards can make decisions based on a wide range of factors including "an assessment of public want and appropriateness of a liquor license at a particular location."
North Adams had turned down EZ Mart based on need and saturation, said Polucci. Dickinson also pointed out the ABCC had factored in the concerns expressed by neighbors of the convenience store at the board's hearing.
In other business, the board approved a one-day application for beer and wine from Jessica Sweeney for Roots Teen Center fundraising event at the Norad Mill at 60 Roberts Drive on Friday, April 12.
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State Declares 'Green Friday' in Support of Local Xmas Tree Farms
UXBRIDGE, Mass. — The Baker-Polito administration has declared Friday, Nov. 27, as "Green Friday" to encourage people across the commonwealth to visit their local farms and nurseries for Christmas trees, holiday plants, and holiday decorating needs.
To celebrate, state Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux participated in a Christmas tree-cutting ceremony at Arrowhead Acres in Uxbridge. In an effort to support the commonwealth's Christmas tree industry, the declaration of Green Friday encourages people throughout the state to visit their local Christmas tree farms to purchase their trees, holiday plants, ornamental swags, and wreaths to fulfill their holiday decorating needs.
"Our administration believes in the importance of supporting our farms by shopping locally and purchasing holiday decorations from one of the commonwealth's many family-operated Christmas tree farms," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "Now more than ever, it is a great time to spend quality time with your family while partaking in this outdoor activity which allows for proper social distancing."
Christmas tree season in Massachusetts provides hundreds of seasonal jobs at approximately 264 Christmas tree farms on approximately 2,801 acres of land from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. The sale of more than 82,524 state-grown Christmas trees contributes approximately $3.5 million to the commonwealth's economy each year. Christmas tree farms, which are often sited on soils that cannot support other crops, stabilize soil, which helps prevent erosion and protect water supplies. When chipped, the trees can be used as a renewable source of energy to be burned as fuel, used as mulch, or composted.
The mayor's remarks were largely to remind residents of the virtual tree-lighting ceremony being broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television starting at 6 p.m., that City Hall offices will be closed Thursday and Friday and as will the transfer station.
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The hashtag "GetBackMass" is part of the latest public awareness campaign launched by the commonwealth. The focus of television and digital advertising will be to promote the idea that "normal" activities can only resume after the threat of the novel coronavirus has subsided.
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