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September 20, 2012

Liquor license sale a sobering situation

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.

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