PEABODY — City leaders remain uneasy over the system that allows Martino's Liquors and New York Deli to sell off their all-alcoholic license to Trader Joe's for more than $200,000 then turn around and request another one, a beer and wine license.
The sale to Trader Joe's hinges on the exotic food store getting a special permit to sell alcohol at its Route 114 store from the City Council. Once that's accomplished — at the cost of a nominal fee paid to the city — the Licensing Board is scheduled to consider allowing the $200,000 swap on Oct. 22.
"Something's wrong with this," said Councilor Dave Gravel. "It just is troubling to me. ... I don't think it's proper when licenses are traded like baseball cards."
"That kind of money is definitely unheard of," added Councilor Dave Gamache. But he noted that the market set the price and the system created the market. "If there's a way to change (the system) the will is out there to change it."
But both Gravel and Gamache cautioned that any change would be opposed as unfair by those who have already invested heavily in their liquor licenses. "The cat's out of the bag," Gamache observed.
The windfall of cash for Martino's rubs some the wrong way but Gravel adds a more practical objection — that the system makes it harder for small businesses to have liquor licenses, as companies with deep pockets are able to corner a share of the limited supply.
Liquor licenses are limited by the state.
Peabody toasts Fred
City Councilors missed Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry's tribute at the Danversport Yacht Club last Thursday — a meeting was scheduled for the same time. But Peabody was well represented. Speakers in a video on behalf of Berry, a former Peabody councilor himself, included Mayor Ted Bettencourt, longtime councilor, now retired, Judy Selesnick, and District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
Selesnick asserted that Berry "will always be admired."
Bettencourt told the packed gathering, "He inspired me and will inspire countless others."
"He was always the person you would go to to make sure things got done," said Blodgett.
News from the swing set
The Welch School has 350 kids and no playground, according to mom Devin Rozansky. Worse yet, it's the only school in Peabody without a playground. "It was torn down because it was unsafe," says Alisha Pena, another mom.
But Welch School parents are hoping to do something about that, raising up to $150,000 for a new state-of-the-art playground, with an area designed for the wee ones — "The tot lot idea," says Rozansky — and a space for older kids to climb and slide.
Playgrounds aren't what they used to be. The good earth is out. "We're trying to do the rubber surface," says Rozansky. Rubber or mulch are recommended for easing free falling kids back to earth.
A benefit 5K race is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 6, starting at 9 a.m. at the school, with an entry fee of up to $25. Anyone interested in signing up should go online to pumpedforlife.net. Donations can also be made to the Welch School playground fund at Eastern Bank on Foster Street.
All Peabody school playgrounds were constructed via donations, says Rozansky, but it's tough raising money in the current economic climate and even tougher at the Welch, which includes some of the poorest families in Peabody. Nevertheless, says Rozansky, this effort has already banked roughly $23,000.
"And we're certainly looking for corporate donations," she says.