Trader Joe's has agreed to shell out $205,000 for a liquor license so it can stock vodka, beer, wine, high-end liquers and other alcoholic beverages at its Peabody store.
The supermarket, which is located on Route 114, is purchasing the all-alcohol package store license from Frank Martino, who owns Martino's Liquors & NY Deli on Route 1 South. Martino is then planning to seek one of the beer and wine package store licenses the city holds, according to Licensing Board Clerk Julie Rydzewski.
The high sale price does set a new record in Peabody -- previously the record was at $135,000 for the full liquor restaurant license the Cheesecake Factory bought in 2007 from the owner of the former Collins Cafe.
Liquor licenses are treated and held by businesses as assets and unless there are extenuating circumstances, are usually sold (transferred) at whatever the market will bear -- in this case, $205,000. Martino actually received this license from the city last summer and only paid the city $2,250 for it.
Under city zoning provisions, Trader Joe's needs a special permit from the City Council first in order to allow retail package sales at the Peabody store, which is in a Regional Business zone. In fact, retail package stores are allowed in seven zoning districts in the city and that use is not allowed by right in any of them (including General Business Downtown as well).
Rydzewski said Boston attorney Andrew Upton, who is representing Trader Joe's, informed the Licensing Board he was trying to get on the Aug. 23 agenda for the council in order to appear before the board on Aug. 27 for approval of the license transfer.
The means by which the state effectively prohibits supermarkets from selling alcohol is by restricting the amount of licenses a business can hold. Until this past January, that limit was three, but the state legislature passed a law last year increasing the limit to five. That opened the door for Trader Joes and other chains to pick up a couple more licenses, provided they also pay the state $5,000 for each license over three.
Trader Joe's currently has three licenses in use for its Brookline, Cambridge and Framingham stores.