By Jonathan Phelps
---- — The owner of the Richdale convenience store on Topsfield Road is seeking the town’s only package store license.
Some residents like the idea of not having to drive out of town to buy beer and wine, while others fear it will change the character of their neighborhood.
Albert Abdelmalak has owned the store at the intersection of Route 97 and Cherry and Maple streets since October 2011.
Selectmen will continue its public hearing from Dec. 18 on the license tonight at 7 at Town Hall, 138 Main St. The hearing was continued for selectmen to check the town’s zoning regulations.
Selectmen Chairwoman Molly Martins could not be reached for comment on the hearing.
Abdelmalak said there have been many requests from customers to sell beer and wine at the store. A three-door refrigerator will be installed for beer and shelves added for the wine, he said.
“It is going to be a very small area to sell the beer and wine,” he said.
While Abdelmalak expects the beer and wine sales to increase customers, he said there will not be a significant increase in traffic, as some residents have suggested.
“I think this will be great for the neighborhood because they don’t have to drive out of town to get beer and wine,” he said.
Under the license, customers will not be able to drink on the premises. The hours of the store will remain the same at 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Mayflower Drive resident wrote a letter to selectmen in favor of granting the license. He said the current management has done a great job cleaning up the store from previous ownership.
“The town should be trying to help out what few businesses we have in Wenham,” he wrote.
Susan and Martin Cooke of Puritan Road expressed many concerns in a letter to selectmen, including the possibility of an increased police presence needed.
“The thought of people potentially loitering while playing Keno and buying liquor around the corner from our home is not what we had in mind when we moved to this community,” they wrote.
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.
Richdale’s application was first considered in April before it was determined that the license was specific to the teahouse and work had to be done to reassign it.
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.