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April 14, 2014

New liquor licenses get committee OK

Three North Shore communities are one step closer to getting a crop of new liquor licenses.

A state legislative committee has voted to forward separate bills for Peabody and Danvers to the full House and Senate for approval, which is expected to come in the next few weeks. Gov. Deval Patrick also signed a bill to create four more licenses for Beverly.

All the licenses had been requested by local communities through home rule petitions to the Legislature, which must approve any new licenses above a city or town’s quota. That quota is based on population, and liquor licenses are often sold privately as business assets for anywhere from $30,000 to $250,000. Local officials say “mom and pop” operations are priced out of the market, because large chain restaurants can afford to pay more for licenses.

“I think the fact that we had a hearing so quickly and received a favorable response reflects the work [Peabody and Danvers] and the legislative delegation did in preparing the bill. It reflects the safeguards the Legislature has put it in place,” said Danvers state Rep. Ted Speliotis, who testified at Tuesday’s hearing at the Statehouse.

Salem Sen. Joan Lovely, who serves on the committee, also testified Tuesday, along with Peabody Rep. Leah Cole and local officials from Peabody and Danvers.

Under the Beverly bill, Larcom Theatre is slated to receive an all-alcohol license, and three beer and wine licenses are reserved for the former Happy Clam Seafood Cafe, the Half Baked Cafe & Bakery and Wicked Art Bar. Peabody seeks 10 licenses for restaurants — five for Northshore Mall and five for specific sites in the city’s downtown. Danvers wants six licenses to keep on hand as business proposals arise.

These “over quota” licenses are subject to special restrictions that would prevent license holders from flipping licenses after a short time and reaping large profits.

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