“We have three interested parties, all of them restaurants. ... If you look at what’s happening in Lynnfield with a complex like Kings, you can see what we’re up against.” (Kings at MarketStreet combines high-end eating, drinking and bowling.)
“Northshore Mall has been a good partner to the city,” said Bettencourt.
Councilors raised questions about fairness, since over-quota licenses are sold for nominal fees while many restaurants had to pay thousands of dollars to buy one of the nearly 60 licenses already allowed to the city. These are generally sold by someone going out of business to someone who needs a license.
“We’re going to get pushback from a lot of people who paid for their licenses,” warned Gravel.
“These licenses would go like hotcakes,” observed Councilor Anne Manning-Martin.
Such concerns are the reason behind the restrictions put on such licenses, says Speliotis, who notes cases where local restaurateurs have had to mortgage their homes to pay for a license. “Everybody has to be treated the same under the law.”
The licenses are distributed by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, and they will not necessarily revert to the city after use. “If after three years the restaurant goes out of business, that city loses that license,” Speliotis said.
Should the mall’s request be approved, Speliotis warns, “The City Council and everybody should realize they’re saving a large restaurant chain hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Speliotis hasn’t spoken to the mayor about the home rule petition, but expressed a willingness to help craft the language. As to winning approval, he said, “I don’t anticipate any difficulty.” On the other hand, cities have been told in the past to scale down requests.
He expects the process could take anywhere from a year to six months.
Staff reporter Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.