November 11, 2015

Selectmen Seek Tougher Punishment For Framingham Bar

In July, Framingham Police arrested the bartender at Railroad Six Sports Grill on drug charges. During the investigation, police identified a total of six liquor license violations.

The owner Salvatore Bellone fired the bartender and voluntarily closed the establishment for 5 days to fix the problems.

According to the Framingham Patch, on Tuesday night, Framingham Police recommended Selectmen, the town's licensing board, suspend the alcohol license for an additional 5 days.

Selectmen said that punishment was not strong enough, and unanimously voted to continue the public hearing until Dec. 1, giving them time to consider a tougher penalty.

Police said besides the drug arrest, a half dozen employees, including that bartender, did not have certified server identification cards from the Town of Framingham.

Lt. Harry Wareham told Selectmen his investigation uncovered the manager was not spending the required number of hours a week at the establishment, and Railroad Six had stopped serving food but was continuing to pour alcohol.

Bellone, who is the owner as well as the manager, said he was at the hospital where his wife gave birth to their second child the night the bartender was arrested.

He testified at the public hearing that the bartender was only on his 7th or 8th shift, when he was arrested.

"I don't condone drugs," said Bellone. "I fired him on the spot."

"I wish I could go back in time and never hire the guy," said Bellone to Selectmen.

Bellone, who owns two downtown Framingham businesses, said he cooperated with Police throughout the investigation.

Bellone said he didn't realize the serve ID cards expire in 2 years, and that he thought he had 30 days for any employee to get a server card after being hired.

"I closed down for the week voluntarily," said Bellone. During that time, he said he made sure every one of his employees was certified to serve alcohol, and then he re-opened.

Bellone also said he didn't know it was a violation to not serve food, while keeping the bar open.

"It was stupidity on my part," said Bellone, who said he appreciated Framingham Police educating him on the liquor license rules.

"It was negligence on my part," said Bellone, who appeared before Selectmen during the public hearing without a lawyer.

"Hard for me to accept the excuse that you were not familiar with rules and regulations. That is a poor excuse," said Selectmen Chair Charlie Sisitsky to Bellone. "You should have been familiar with every one of them."

"Holding an alcohol license is privilege and not a right," said Selectman Cheryl Tully Stoll. "Which regulations did you understand?"

"I have never in all my years that I've sat here seen anything like this," said Selectman Laurie Lee. "It is a blatant disregard for the rules."

Selectman Mike Bower said the violations were "disturbing," and made the motion for a stronger penalty than a 5-day alcohol license suspension.

Bellone does have the option of meeting with Police, and working out an agreement for a stronger penalty before the December hearing date.

October 20, 2015

Alcohol sellers want cover to accept out-of-state licenses

The Republican reports that wine and alcohol sellers are pushing for a change in state law that would allow them legal protection if they accept out-of-state licenses.

"If someone's 21, has ID from another state that's legal, we should legally be able to take it and not have to say 'I'm sorry I can't take that ID' because we are not afforded same protection as if we took Massachusetts ID and relied on that for identification," said Ben Weiner, owner of Sav-Mor Liquors, which has four stores around greater Boston.

Liquor sellers have been advocating for the change for years. Under current law, if a store accidentally sells alcohol to a minor, the owner has a defense if the store relied on a Massachusetts license as proof of age. But the store can be penalized if employees relied on an out-of-state license that is fake.

Steven Rubin, owner of Huntington Wines and Liquors, which sells alcohol near Northeastern University in Boston, said a lot of supermarkets do not accept out-of-state licenses, while larger independent stores use a scanner to verify that a license is legitimate. His store accepts out-of-state licenses only with two backup picture IDs.

"We turn away $3,500 to $4,000 in sales, because we're afraid to take out-of-state licenses," Rubin said.

"We turn away $3,500 to $4,000 in sales, because we're afraid to take out of state licenses."
Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the West Springfield-based Massachusetts Package Stores Association, said even airline security accepts licenses from around the country. "We just don't understand why with all the bells and whistles in place and security available that a license from another state can't be used as proof of age for purchasing alcohol, when it can be used every other reason," Anzalotti said.

Several bills pending before the Legislature would make it easier for package stores to accept out-of-state licenses. State Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, R-North Attleborough, would protect sellers from a penalty if they rely on an out-of-state license that they have validated using a magnetic identification card reader machine - a type of scanner that verifies if a license is legitimate. Other bills introduced by State Rep. Paul McMurtry, D-Dedham, State Sen. James Welch, D-West Springfield, and State Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, would simply allow sellers to rely on out-of-state licenses as proof of age to avoid a penalty.

The issue is particularly important for stores located at state borders or in areas that attract tourists.

State Sen. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover, chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, which is considering the bills, said the committee is just beginning to gather information. "It's trying to figure out a way we can strike a balance and ensure that we are preventing underage drinking but at the same time allowing our retailers to be able to make legal sales of alcohol and also allow for legal admission into clubs and bars and restaurants," L'Italien said.

Committee member State Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, said he recognizes that allowing sellers to accept out of state licenses is important for businesses trying to attract tourists. But he also wants to make sure the scanning technology is in place to allow businesses to distinguish between real and fake identification cards. "I've seen fake IDs that are unbelievable," Howitt said. "You would never know that they are fake."

August 6, 2015

Tedeschi's in Hanover Has License Suspended

Hanover Selectmen suspended the liquor license of the Tedeschi's on Columbia Road for three days, with two to serve, after the store sold alcohol to three underage teens using a fake out-of-state ID, according to Wicked Local Hanover.

A Hanover police officer saw the three underage men from afar drinking beer in the parking lot of the Tedeschi's on July 3 at 9:55 p.m. before getting into a car to drive away, according to Hanover Police Chief Walter Sweeney. The officer stopped the car, scanned the ID, which proved it fake, and found a 30-pack of Coors Light and the remainder of the case of beer they had opened in the parking lot.

When the officer brought the ID back to the store, the Tedeschi's employee told the officer he had checked it, but did not follow company protocol and ask for a second form of ID, despite having a "funny feeling," Sweeney said.

Tedeschi's Division Manager Glenn Scandlen said the employee was suspended without pay, but was not fired. Richard Isabelle, store manager, added that all employees of the store complete an extended alcohol training session of about an hour and a half.

The Board of Selectmen originally wanted to penalize the store by suspending its license for five days, with three to serve, but reduced the penalty due to the efforts by the company to prevent another violation.
"Obviously, in Hanover, we take it very seriously--the liquor licenses we give out and the violations," selectmen Chairman Brian Barthelmes said. "We appreciate you coming in. We appreciate that you've taken corrective action, but I do still feel that a suspension of the license, or a penalty, for a number of days is warranted."

July 2, 2015

Framingham TGI's Suspended

Framingham Selectmen voted to suspend the liquor license of TGI Friday's in Framingham for five days in July. The Shoppers World restaurant will not be able to serve alcohol from July 22-26.

The restaurant and the Framingham Police department reached an agreement on a liquor license violation that occurred in December 2014, and asked Selectmen to approve it.

In April, Police came before Selectmen with a recommendation for a 3-day suspension.

A majority of the 5-member board said the suspension was not enough and recommended the two parties work out a stiffer penalty. One selectmen back in April even suggested a 15-day suspension, with 8 days to be served.

On December 17 2014, just after 12:30 a.m., a Maynard man, 37, drove his Jeep into the front lobby of TGI Friday's in Shoppers World in Framingham.

The vehicle struck two women who were on the sidewalk. Their injuries included a broken bone and a concussion. The restaurant also sustained structural damage.

According to a police investigation, the man was served five 1-ounce shots of alcohol and five beers within a two and half hour period.

The bartender at the restaurant told Framingham Police he did served the Maynard man and five of his friends about 20 shots, seven mixed drinks, and 8 beers over two and a half hours.

After the December 2014 incident, Framingham Deputy Police Chief Ron Brandolini said the restaurant terminated the bartender.

The restaurant also put into place a program that the third beverage served to a customer prompts a notification to the manager who goes right to the table to speak with the customer.

Along with the 5-day suspension, the restaurant agrees to have monthly compliance meetings with Framingham Police, and pay a $300 investigation fee.

July 1, 2015

Fenway's Target wants to sell alcohol

Target Corp. has applied for a liquor license for the CityTarget going up on Boylston Street in the Fenway neighborhood, a Target spokesperson has confirmed, as reported by the Boston Business Journal.

Target still waiting to hear if it can sell alcohol when the store opens to the public on July 22, said spokesperson Erika Winkels. The store is part of Samuels & Associates' Van Ness development, a 550,000 square-foot mixed-use project on Boylston Street.

Under Massachusetts rules, grocers can apply for liquor licenses for off-premises alcohol consumption. The Walgreens flagship pharmacy in the former Borders location in Downtown Crossing sells alcohol, but few other non-liquor store retailers in downtown sell booze.

The liquor license Target has applied for would include import and domestic beers, wine and spirits, Winkels said.

February 24, 2015

New tax on alcohol sales in Boston proposed

The Boston Globe reports that two Boston city councilors have filed paperwork to begin a process that could result in a substantial new citywide tax on the sale of alcohol, and to use the millions of dollars in expected revenue exclusively on substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.

The proposal, if passed by both the City Council and the state Legislature, would impose a tax of 1 percent to 2 percent on all alcohol sales, including beer and wine, in city restaurants, taverns, bars, supermarkets, and package stores.

City Council President Bill Linehan, who offered the proposal along with City Councilor Frank Baker, said that thousands of people are afflicted by alcohol and drug addiction, many of them unemployed and a burden on the public. Helping them sober up and become productive citizens represents a huge opportunity to save public money, he said.

"Dollar for dollar, it's the best buy we can get," Linehan told the Globe. "Once they get straightened out, there are no more demands from them for free hospital services, for shelter, for other services. They get jobs and start paying taxes."

Alcohol is already subject to an excise tax, and the Legislature passed a state law in 2009 to add a sales tax of 6.25 percent on top of the excise tax. But voters repealed that new sales tax on alcohol, 52 percent to 48 percent, in a statewide referendum in 2010. Proponents had promised to use a portion of the money raised to underwrite treatment programs.

The Globe reports that last year, Linehan and Baker proposed adding a sales tax on alcohol at supermarkets and package stores. But Linehan said the pair dropped the proposal after hearing from retailers who complained that the proposal unfairly singled out their industry while leaving alone alcohol sold at restaurants, taverns, and bars.

That led to this year's proposal, which is still being met with opposition.

"We are opposed to an increase in the sale taxes," said Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, which represents about 2,000 retailers of alcoholic beverages statewide, including hundreds in Boston. "Alcohol is already taxed. It would mean a tax on a tax."

Asked about the proposal, the office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh released a statement saying that the mayor "understands the critical need for additional funding for treatment programs in Boston," but was noncommittal on support for the measure.

Walsh "looks forward to learning more about the proposal during the Council's process, and will review the specific policy if it reaches his desk," the statement continued.

The proposal is expected to be taken up on Wednesday by the City Council, but no vote on the measure is likely to come for at least several weeks, Linehan said.

If the City Council passes it, the proposal -- known as a home rule petition -- would have to be approved by a majority vote of both the House and the Senate and signed by the governor.

Walsh, in his state of the city speech last month, said he was troubled by the closing of a bridge to Long Island, the site of addiction treatment facilities and the city's largest homeless shelter. The bridge was closed due to structural deficiencies.

Walsh, who has publicly acknowledged his own alcoholism, said in his speech that closing the bridge "hit me hard."

"Nothing is more important to me than protecting our most vulnerable neighbors, whether the addicted or the homeless," Walsh said.

Governor Charlie Baker has moved forcefully to address the toll taken by opioid-related addiction since taking office in January. Last week, he appointed a 16-member working group to hold public meetings, assess the resources devoted to the problem, and submit "specific, targeted recommendations" by May.

February 20, 2015

BYOB in Boston?

Bring your own booze could become a reality in Boston in the near future.

At-large City Councilors Michelle Wu and Stephen Murphy have submitted a proposal to allow smaller restaurants the option of offering BYOB service to diners, reports Universal Hub.

Both Wu and Murphy want to end Boston's ban on "BYOB" options, as a way to boost restaurants that cannot afford expensive liquor license fees.

Currently, a liquor license for beer or wine in Boston can ring up to $75,000 for some restaurants, with that number swelling up to $375,000 for all alcohol service. Boston has a staunch limit on the number of liquor licenses that it hands out, resulting in high prices for dining establishments.

"The goal is to help smaller restaurants who can't afford a liquor license," Wu told the Boston Globe. "Really, this is about lowering barriers to entry."

Bob Luz, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association (MRA), said that the motion could help develop restaurants that aren't located in popular and dynamic areas such as Newbury Street and the Seaport.

"We applaud the efforts of Councillors Wu and Murphy to encourage more small business growth within the city of Boston," Luz said in a statement to BostInno. "While BYOB licenses are currently prohibited in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, they have been shown to help very small restaurants in certain areas of the Commonwealth when implemented effectively and carefully."

Luz continued, "The MRA believes that any BYOB policy should be limited to certain neighborhoods and to restaurants of a certain size to encourage growth in under-served areas. By limiting scope, we can shield existing license owners from any unintended negative consequences of unbalanced competition."

If the proposal clears, it would then turn to the Boston Licensing Board in order to establish rules and regulations for BYOB options within the city. Mayor Marty Walsh seemed willing to look at the idea but not overly enthused.

"It could be a game changer in the way we do business in Boston," Walsh told the Boston Globe. "We want to look at it, but I know for a fact I am not interested in opening it up across the board in the city of Boston. We have a lot of restaurant and bar owners who invest heavily in the liquor licenses for their premises."

Among the factors that the board would have to sort through include determining what types of alcohol could be brought in by consumers, as well as whether restaurants can charge patrons for "corkage fees" for drinking their own booze.

While BYOB has not been adopted in Boston, it has become a popular alternative for diners in Philadelphia, Chicago and some cities and towns in Massachusetts.

January 17, 2015

Northampton Seeks Additional Licenses

The Northampton City Council agreed to adopt a resolution to create 5 new liquor licenses for 5 existing businesses. Mayor David Narkewicz hopes this is the first step in getting rid of the quota system, and giving local city and towns (like Northampton) the power to issue as many licenses as they see fit.

"There's many customers that come in and once they find out we don't have a full liquor license, they walk out," Juan Suarez, Owner of Ibiza Tapas told ABC40. Ibiza Tapas was among the five restaurants who did not win the all-liquor license awarded to Bistro Les Gras back in September 2014. Mayor Narkewicz says filing this resolution is his way of addressing the "outdated, one size fits" all quota system for liquor licenses. Former Gov. Patrick supported ending the cap on the number of licenses last year but was it was rejected by the House.

Suarez also adds that if there were more licenses available, it would make for better and more restaurant competition.

"I think it will make all businesses more competitive, right now only a few have it, I think it just opens it up for everything to be more competitive," Suarez said.

Council president Bill Dwight agrees saying, "I'm against the outdated licensing laws that create this unfair situation for the current holders. A state issued license should not be kept and sold as a commodity."

The resolution is currently on its way to state legislators for further consideration.

January 13, 2015

Newton Police Arrest Minors

Newton police made multiple arrests on Jan. 10 at Tedeschi's Food Shop on Winchester Street.

Assigned to liquor enforcement, police spotted a young man head into the store around 8:40 p.m. He left carrying two 30-packs of beer, and loaded it into a gray Jeep with MA plates.

Police questioned the man, and seized two 30-packs (Budweiser and Natural Light), as well as a false New York driver's license, as evidence.

A complaint will be issued against him for procuring alcohol under 21, possession liquor under 21, using a false ID.

Also that day, Newton police spotted two young white men enter Tedeschi's, leaving with a brown paper bag "typically used for six-packs of alcohol, as opposed tot he plastic bags the store was placing grocery items in."

A 20-year-old and 19-year-old from Needham and a 20-year-old from Newton was charged with procuring liquor under 21, possessing liquor under 21, having a false ID, and drug possession, Class D

January 11, 2015

King Arthur's Building in Chelsea is Sold

The old King Arthur's Strip Club building in Chelsea was sold to a former produce wholesaler from Quincy, according to the Boston Herald, beating out Revere businessman Charlie Lightbody - who is currently under indictment for wire fraud related to the Wynn casino land deal.

Demetrios Vardakostas, who once owned Bostonia Produce and worked out of the Produce Center, purchased the property for $1.35 million, the Herald reported, at an auction on the site. Lightbody bid $1.3 million.

The Chelsea License Commission stripped the club of all of its licenses, including its liquor license, last summer. That said, the purchaser is not able to re-open the club as a strip club/bar without a completely new set of licenses from the Commission.

The owner said that he had no intention of opening a bar or club, but rather on investing in a potential hotel to support the Wynn casino just across the way in Everett.

Outgoing City Manager Jay Ash said he was glad to see that chapter of the City close before he leaves.

"I'm happy to see that chapter in the city's history come to an end," he said. "The building has been both a physical blight and a psychological burden on the city for far too long. We've done so much to improve our image and our economy and I'm glad to see this building going into new ownership with new potential to be part of the new Chelsea."

There is, however, still a lawsuit against the Chelsea License Commission by the former group associated with King Arthur's concerning the removal of the liquor license and the entertainment license. The sale of the building, however, is likely not associated with the progress of those suits.

January 6, 2015

Grafton businesses busted

A Grafton package store will have its liquor license suspended for one day and two restaurants will receive written warnings after they were caught serving alcohol to an underage man in November, selectmen voted in early January, as reported by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Police Chief Normand A. Crepeau Jr. recommended that Valley Plaza Discount Liquors, 43 Main St., receive a harsher penalty than the two restaurants, Anzio's Brick Oven Pizza, 135 Westboro Road, and The Grafton Inn, 25 Grafton Common, because the package store manager, Taral Naik, had a license for only five months and should have been more aware of the need to comply with the law.

Cancun Mexican Restaurant, 75 Worcester St., also was caught serving beer to the minor, but its public hearing was postponed to the next meeting.

The package store suspension will take place on a date to be decided by the business owner and police.

All three businesses must also provide Chief Crepeau, within 30 days, copies of in-person certification in Training and Intervention Procedures for Servers of alcohol, or TIPS, or other alcohol-service training.

Detective William Kuck told selectmen that the sting took place Nov. 21, when a 19-year-old man and an undercover police officer from Mendon visited restaurants and stores that sold liquor. The underage man was told to try to buy beer.

"Since that day, we are IDing 100 percent customers," Mr. Naik told selectmen, as he apologized for his lapse.

Todd Harrington, manager of Anzio's, explained: "Our policy has always been if anybody appears to be under the age of 30, we card them."

He changed the policy after the sting to card anyone who appears to be 40 or under. In reality, the business is carding everyone, he said.

Mr. Harrington said he has had a liquor license in Massachusetts for 20 years, including two years at Anzio's, and never had a violation before.

John Pardee, manager of the Grafton Inn, said the violation was the restaurant's first in nearly 15 years.

"Our policy is, if you're not a regular and we don't know you, we card you. We will not let this happen again," Mr. Pardee told selectmen.

December 4, 2014

Walsh Shakes Up Boston Licensing Board

New Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, exercising new authority granted by the state Legislature, expelled all three members of Boston's Licensing Board, replacing them with his own appointees.

Walsh announced the move Wednesday. For more than a century, the board that controls liquor licenses had been appointed by the governor, but a state law passed earlier this year returned the authority to the Boston mayor.

The Licensing Board's newly appointed chairwoman is Christine A. Pulgini. Licensing Board and our approach to licensing across the city presents a fresh opportunity to support economic development across our neighborhoods."

Members of the Licensing Board, whose positions are regarded as full-time, regulate everything from hotels to fortune tellers, but their most consequential power is over liquor licenses, which have long been contentious.

Liquor licenses can help spur economic development, but the number is limited by the state. Liquor licenses historically have been difficult to obtain, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley spearheaded an effort to overhaul the Licensing Board, a push that was championed by Walsh. The Legislature increased the city's limit of licenses by 75 and returned local control of the board to Boston's mayor for the first time since 1906. The Boston Globe reported that Pressley issued a statement Wednesday thanking outgoing board members for their service.

One of the other new appointees to the licensing board was Lisa S. Maki, a lawyer who lives in South Boston. Maki has worked for the city's Law Department since 2010, according to Walsh's press release. The third new member was Keeana Serene Saxon, a lawyer who lives in Roxbury. Saxon had worked as general counsel to the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, according to the release.

The members of the new board began their six-year terms on Monday. Salaries are set by state law, according to the mayor's office.

As chairwoman, Pulgini will be paid $100,000 annually, and Maki and Saxon will earn $85,000.

The ousted board members included Suzanne Iannella; and Milton L. Wright Jr., whose term ran until 2016. Wright is a retired first justice from Roxbury District Court who is well known in the African-American community.
The third member removed by Walsh was Chairwoman Nicole Murati Ferrer, whose term ran until 2018.

Ferrer will remain employed by the city and is transitioning to a different role.

Iannella and Wright are no longer employed by the City of Boston.

December 4, 2014

Mobile App Drync Expands Wine Services

The Boston Globe reports that the Somerville startup Drync is making it possible to order wine (a bottle or a case) through its mobile app and pick it up at a local retailer. On Jan. 1, it becomes legal in Massachusetts for wineries to ship their products directly to your doorstep.

Drync founder and chief executive Brad Rosen said that current options for direct-to-consumer shipping of wine are onerous: It can be expensive, and someone 21-or-older often needs to be home to sign for the shipment. Through the app, it's now possible to order any of Drync's 30,000 wines on offer and pick them up at one of eight Boston-area retailers.

"We call it the infinite shelf," Rosen said to the Globe. "If the wine you want is in the state somewhere, our retailers get it from their wholesalers." The bottles will be available for pickup between one and four days after the order is placed.

Retailers will pay Drync a monthly fee, and a marketing fee on each sale, in order to participate in the pickup program. Big retailers such as Costco are rapidly outselling independent wine retailers, Rosen said. "These smaller shops are desperate for ways to drive traffic and create loyalty, and they're willing to pay for it."

The company's vision is to have an expansive network of retailers who will eventually be able to sign up to participate online. Rosen told the Globe that a survey his company conducted this fall found that online wine buyers order 50 percent more bottles per month than offline buyers, and are twice as likely to spend $30 or more per bottle.

A new version of the Drync app, released on Thursday, also lets you "follow" other users to see what wines they like, or spy on what vintages your friends have been swilling. In November, Drync became the first wine app to support Apple Pay, which lets users pay with a single tap, using a credit card on file.

October 11, 2014

Northampton Awards New Seasonal License

The Northampton License Commission met last Wednesday night to select the newest recipient of a seasonal liquor license.

Bistro Les Gras was awarded the license, after the restaurant's name was chosen from a vintage spinning raffle drum, as reported by

"I'm very excited," says Elizabeth Martinez, Owner of Bistro Les Gras. "I've never really been a lucky person, so I'm excited that the city awarded the license to anyone -- but especially, to us."

Liquor licenses are limited, and many communities have far less liquor licenses than they actually need. According to Elaine Reall of the License Commission, liquor licenses have become a commodity that's sold and resold for higher amounts of money.

"We happened to have one that was revoked from a license holder, who didn't use it for a number of years," explains Reall. "We revoked it and put it back into circulation."

Qualified small business owners made detailed presentations to the commission on their fiscal soundness, what their business plan is, and what they hoped to do with the license, if it was awarded to them.

Seven applications were reviewed by the commission Wednesday at a public meeting. And some restaurant owners, were called to the podium to defend their applications.

In the end, all seven restaurants -- Ibiza Tapas, Hinge, Local Burger, the Sierra Grille, Sylvester's, Treydon's Bar and Grill, Bistro Les Gras -- were considered.

Bistro Les Gras was selected by a representative of The Academy of Music who was present at the meeting.

Martinez says this new liquor license will make a big impact on the business -- Bistro Les Gras can now offer specialty drinks, and draw-in a crowd from Smith College.

The restaurant must now operate under this new license for at least one year.

October 10, 2014

Easthampton Brewery Wants to Serve on Premises

The proprietor of Fort Hill Brewery is seeking permission to pour pints of lager for visitors to his state-of-the-art facility on Fort Hill Road in Easthampton. reports that owner and head brewer Eric Berzins appeared before the Easthampton Licensing Board on Monday night with his request. The commission took no immediate action, and agreed to inspect and tour the facility on Oct. 20.

Currently, Berzins has a farmer-brewery license, which allows him to brew beer on premises and sell it wholesale. The license also lets him sell retail bottles to customers, if they are opened and consumed off-premises. He is also permitted to give small samples to visitors.

Under state law, local licensing boards can grant a license to the holder of a farmer-winery license to pour and sell full pints, so long as it's done in a manner deemed "reasonable and proper."

Berzins said being able to pour and sell pints at a set price would "eliminate ambiguity" about the free samples. "It would make our lives better as businessmen," he said. He said the extra revenue would help the brewery be more competitive. "Our electricity bills are very high," Berzins said.

Fort Hill Brewery "would not operate as a bar," Berzins promised, but would hold limited hours. The tasting room is open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Berzins said at full capacity, Fort Hill Brewery could produce 8,000 barrels a year, which puts his facility at about half the size of Berkshire Brewing in South Deerfield.

Berzins told The Republican / MassLive that Fort Hill has just released a new lager called "M3," which represents an improvement over the previous lager known as "Mark II."

"We're trying to produce a lager that's as smooth as possible," he said. Berzins said the brewery adheres to the traditional Bavarian purity law, which allows only hops, barley, water and yeast in the brewing process.

He also said Fort Hill is ready to start producing beer in cans, and is waiting for federal approval for the cans' labeling. The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau must approve the labels for bottles and cans of beer.

The Boston-area transplant learned the beer craft by working at the Blue Hills Brewery in Canton, and by attending the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and Munich, Germany.

Fort Hill, which delivered its first batch of beer in August, grows its own hops.

The public hearing on Berzin's application was continued until Oct. 27, when a decision likely will be made. Any decision by the local board needs approval by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.