SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 3, 2013

Meeting on liquor licenses set in Beverly

Council will discuss process of requesting more from state

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — The Beverly City Council plans to hold a special meeting Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss the mayor’s economic development push for more liquor licenses for the city.

The plan had been to ask the state for three additional all-alcohol restaurant licenses, five more beer-and-wine licenses and another beer-and-wine package store license, but Scanlon backed away from that number yesterday.

“It’s not clear it would be nine,” Scanlon said.

“I think the discussion is going to be general,” Scanlon said. “I don’t think it’s going to get into specifics.” The purpose of the meeting is not to discuss individual applicants, but the process. The City Council has to sign off on plans before applying for the licenses through a home-rule petition with the state Legislature.

Cities and towns face Prohibition-era limits on the number of licenses each community can have based on population. However, they can petition for site-specific licenses, and Beverly has sought two additional licenses in recent years. These are less valuable because they cannot be transferred to another location.

Scanlon said he had been investigating whether the city could petition for the licenses without having to name specific addresses. Having to name specific addresses before petitioning the Legislature, he said, would slow the process. He also said while the city gets calls all the time from those interested in obtaining a license in Beverly, it does not keep a list of potential applicants.

“A lot of people are interested in licenses,” Scanlon said yesterday. “There is no question about that.”

The only license that has been discussed so far has been one for the Larcom Theatre on Wallis Street, which rents out space for functions. Scanlon has said he has spoken with council members and licensing board members individually on his plans, and they all said the plans make sense.

Scanlon has previously said the additional licenses would boost economic development in the city. But there are concerns from present restaurant owners that too many licenses may mean too much competition. The city has 36 all-alcohol restaurant licenses and six beer-and-wine licenses. There is also a concern whether new establishments would have to foot the same tab that existing restaurants had to for a license. A license in Beverly can fetch $60,000 to $80,000, and the city is considering charging a fee for them.

“I think it’s important we spend some time on the process,” Scanlon said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.