Peabody Licensing Board members looked like they could use a drink as they listened last night to the reasons that Frank Martino of Martino’s Liquors deserves a beer and wine license despite selling his all-alcohol license to Trader Joe’s for $200,000.
They turned Martino down on a 1-2 vote, earning a promise from his lawyer, Jack Keilty, that he will appeal the decision to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
Earlier in the same meeting, the board quickly approved the license transfer to Trader Joe’s that assured Martino the $200,000. But Chairman Minas Dakos looked grim as he later read a prepared statement, saying in part, “If he is willing to sell the license after having it for only a year, seriously, how necessary was a full liquor package store license needed for this business? Apparently, it wasn’t.”
Dakos expressed doubt that the new license would be needed.
Members agreed that the arrangement Martino was seeking had brought unprecedented controversy.
“Just so you know, we’re getting all kinds of pressure from both sides,” Chuck Holden said. “We’ve never seen an issue where someone says, ‘I sold my valuable license, and now I want one that’s less valuable.’”
He asked, “What benefit to the city of Peabody is it for us to give you a license?” He wondered at the reaction of the “average” Peabody resident to this extraordinarily lucrative swap of an asset issued by the city for a nominal fee barely surpassing $2,000. “It’s a hard thing for people to grasp.”
The license given to Martino only became available because an increase in the city’s population brought a corresponding increase in the number of all-alcohol licenses that the city is allowed to issue.
Member Nancy Delaney acknowledged that others have sold licenses in the past, but usually as a prelude to retirement or going out of business. “Most people that sell them don’t come in to us afterward and say they want anything.”