The state office of alcohol beverage control has increased the city’s allotted liquor licenses in light of an increase in population over the past 10 years.
City Licensing Board Chairman Minas Dakos confirmed this week the city has been awarded four additional full liquor licenses and one additional beer and wine license in response to an over 6.5 percent population increase reported on the 2010 U.S. Census report.
In addition, the city has received one additional off-premises license, designated for retail locations such as package stores.
Prior to this year, the city had 51 full liquor licenses and 10 beer and wine licenses, nearly all of which are in use by various establishments. Likewise, the city had previously held 10 off premises licenses, two of which are still available to interested business owners.
There is still one full liquor license for restaurant use mired down in appeals. The Licensing Board finally revoked a license held by developer Richard Marchese last year after Marchese was unable to put it into use for more than 2-1/2 years. He appealed to the ABCC, which upheld the city’s ruling, but now the argument has been taken to court.
The board is also seeking clarification on whether the full liquor license held by Brooksby Village counts as part of the new total of 55. That license was created by state lawmakers on a home rule petition.
Dakos said there is a list of casually interested parties who have inquired into licenses over the past few years, and the addition of the new full liquor licenses could allow for other restaurants to upgrade the selections behind the bar.
“We always have people coming in asking about the licenses, some are serious some are more casual,” he said. “So we will certainly have people interested, whether it be a new license or someone with a beer and wine only license looking to upgrade.”
At least one restaurant downtown is all set to upgrade its alcohol selection. The Fire Bull is scheduled to appear before the Licensing Board on June 27 on an application for a full liquor license — an upgrade to its current wine and malt license, according to Julie Rydzewski, who serves as the board’s clerk.
China Corner will also be appearing before the board that evening on an application for a new wine and malt license.
Beer and wine licenses tend to be more cost-effective for new businesses, especially those more interested in selling food than alcohol, due in part to the lower cost. A beer and wine license will cost a restaurant just $1,700, compared to $2,250 for a full bar license.
An increase in liquor licenses could be just the boost the city needs to help attract new businesses to the downtown area as it embarks on a Main Street Corridor revitalization plan. City planners have hired an engineering firm to design a new-look downtown this summer, including a safer, friendlier one-lane Main Street with more sidewalk space, and say construction on the project could begin as early as next spring.
Along with the safety and fluidity improvements of the area, the city has updated zoning regulations to weed out industrial business and welcome more retail stores and restaurants to the area. Once the zoning map is officially approved, restaurants will be able to offer outdoor patio service on Main Street.
The 10-year population increase, noted at over 3,000 residents, has caused several changes and alterations in the city. Along with the liquor license increase, the state has re-districted wards and precincts in nearly every part of the city to make up for the decade-long growth.
Dakos said that the board will entertain all parties interested in obtaining licenses as they approach, but in the end will not look to simply sell away the new licenses just because they are available.
“We will always be guided by a common goal, and that is to do what is in the best interest of the city,” he said.
The Licensing Board will also likely soon be hearing a plea for its new all-alcohol package store license.
Frank Martino’s Pizzeria is a combination deli and package store planned for a spot at 202 Newbury St. An application for a special permit (due to the proposed alcohol use) is now before the City Council, and if approved, the Licensing Board would then hold its own hearing.