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August 6, 2013

Concerns, support for increased liquor licenses

BEVERLY — Mayor Bill Scanlon’s push for more liquor licenses in the city was met with some concerns, but mostly support, by restaurant owners and city councilors last night.

City councilors discussed Scanlon’s proposal to seek the additional licenses by home-rule petition through the state Legislature for the first time last night. The matter will be brought before the Licensing Board and the council’s Committee on Legal Affairs.

Cities and towns face Prohibition-era limits on the number of licenses each community can have, based on population. However, they can petition for site-specific licenses.

The number of licenses to be requested is still up in the air, and there will be a public hearing before the home-rule petition is filed with the state, Scanlon said.

Scanlon said the plan for increased liquor licenses would boost the city’s economic development. But some current restaurant owners have raised concerns that too many licenses might bring about too much competition or they would create an unfair business environment if the new businesses don’t have to pay for the licenses.

Several businesses are interested in obtaining liquor licenses, including the Larcom Theatre on Wallis Street, which rents out space for functions, the mayor said. He would not mention any other business by name last night.

“At this time, the majority of parties seeking licenses are in pursuit of beer-and-wine licenses, not full alcohol licenses,” Scanlon said. “Personally, I don’t see that type of license as a major threat to existing licensees.”

Councilor Jason Silva said that adding such licenses with proper regulation would be the next step to attracting new businesses into the city.

“This is one vehicle that can do that,” Silva said. “It is an economic development tool. I think it absolutely needs to be done.”

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