WENHAM — The town will now have a convenience store that sells beer and wine.
Selectmen, who also serve as the town’s Licensing Board, unanimously voted Tuesday night to grant the town’s only package store license to Richdale on Topsfield Road. The public hearing process started on Dec. 18 and was continued to Tuesday’s meeting to give selectmen time to confirm zoning regulations.
Mark Lanza, special counsel to the board, reported that the license would be allowed without Zoning Board of Appeals approval under town policy.
Under the approved license, the store will be able to sell beer and wine between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., when the store closes.
Selectmen made their decision after hearing comments from residents both in support and opposition of the store’s application, according to an online video streaming of the meeting.
“I think this will enhance his business and would enhance the community,” said Virginia Place resident Dave St. Laurent.
Maple Street resident Lou Terranova spoke against the proposal, saying one of the reasons his family moved to Wenham was because there were no stores to buy alcohol.
“I think it will change the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “If the consent of the board is that they want to change the character of the neighborhood and take a fairly pristine area and add some risk to it, then it’s on you. But my recommendation would be to evaluate this proposal and consider what it does to the neighborhood ... and the opinions of the people who live in the area.”
Albert Abdelmalak has owned the store at the intersection of Route 97 and Cherry and Maple streets since October 2011.
Abdelmalak’s attorney, Thomas Truax, said his client is deserving of the license. There will only be one sign in the front of the store letting customers know that it sells beer and wine, he noted.
“This is going to be the same nice store that it is now. There is just going to be a small beer and wine section in the back,” Truax said. “You are not going to be seeing any neon signs or anything pronouncing beer and wine. I just don’t see how it is going to be anything negative for the neighborhood.”
The license previously belonged to the Wenham Tea House before it lapsed when the restaurant’s tenant decided not to renew the lease. At a Special Town Meeting in February, residents supported the creation of a home rule petition to seek an all-alcohol pouring license for the Wenham Tea House, which freed up the town’s only package store license.
Three businesses had expressed interest in the town’s single retail license for the sale of beer and wine — Grassy Roots, Nazir’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts, and Richdale.
Richdale ended up being the only business to apply for it.
Selectman Patrick Wilson said during the hearing that while he is sensitive to the opinions of the neighbors, the board must focus on the need for such a license, zoning and public safety concerns in making a decision.
“To my mind, I think the only responsible decision we can come to is to grant this license,” he said.
Selectmen Chairwoman Molly Martins thanked all the residents who gave feedback during the public hearing.
“I would hope and I do not expect any of the negative concerns will come to fruition,” she said.