An important part of Martino’s business, Keilty argued, was selling liquor to people who rent his Topsfield function hall, Topsfield Commons. Only recently did he find out he was being undersold by Kappy’s, which made selling hard liquor less important for him.
Keilty indicated that his client is a good citizen, leaving the board with no valid reason for denying him the available license.
Keilty also gave some insight into how Martino innocently found himself “in the right place at the right time.” After a change in state law made it possible for Trader Joe’s to sell liquor at more stores, the national chain came to Peabody inquiring, “Who got the last license?”
Discovering it was Martino, they reasoned, according to Keilty, that he would be more willing to part with his license than would a retailer like Kappy’s, which bases its entire business on selling alcohol.
Thus, Trader Joe’s made Martino an offer.
“His first answer,” Keilty said, “was no.” The lawyer later told reporters that this offer exceeded $100,000.
“But then they got to a price where it was attractive.” Until faced with this offer, Martino had no intention of selling, Keilty said. “It was never, ‘Oh, I’ll take the license and then I’ll sell it.’”
In one of his few remarks to reporters, Martino shook his head and said, “The offer was insane.”
Holden expressed concern that Martino seemed to be changing his business plan with regularity. He also worried that customers will mistakenly think they can consume the beer and wine at his establishment, which also provides deli products and where Martino intends to sell pizza.
Martino pledged that customers are advised of the rules and understand they cannot drink on the premises or in the parking lot.
Holden suggested granting the beer and wine license, but making it nontransferable. Keilty agreed to this, while hinting that such a prohibition might not stand up in court. In any case, both Delaney and Dakos voted against the motion.