Once the licenses are issued by a city or town, they are tied to specific locations and must revert back to the municipality if the business closes within three years. After three years, the license can be sold but must remain at the same location. Local licensing authorities would need to approve all transfers.
“This is a major part of the revitalization effort [for the downtown],” said Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt. He said the city’s goal is to generate “nightlife” and “excitement” with new restaurants and pubs. The downtown is pretty quiet now after the workday ends, he said.
Peabody has identified parcels that city officials say are “high interest” spots for development, such as a city lot on Foster Street that Bettencourt wants to turn into a multistory parking garage with commercial and residential uses, and a hotel restaurant that’s also planned for Peabody Square.
Mark Whiting, general manager of Northshore Mall, informed local officials months ago that there was interest by two or three parties in opening new restaurants at the mall, but they needed to be able to serve alcohol. He also said the licenses would help the mall stay competitive with MarketStreet Lynnfield shopping center.
Danvers Selectman Gardner Trask said the town board intended to create a pool of licenses that could be distributed gradually as boutique restaurants or innovative proposals that would “enhance the town” emerged.
An oft-heard complaint from the business community, however, is one of fairness. Some businesses paid six figures for their licenses, but a new restaurant could now open next door and receive one from the city or town for a nominal fee. That’s exactly what happened in Salem a few years ago after the city received several licenses by home rule petition.
As might be expected, there was an uproar. City officials, however, realized in 2011 that seasonal licenses could be converted to year-round permits for a fee. Another home rule petition was passed for seven seasonal licenses, and the fees were $15,000 to convert a beer and wine license and $33,750 for full liquor.