July 16, 2014

Somerville liquor store suspended for illegal wholesales

After illegally selling liquor wholesale to establishments in Somerville and surrounding communities, Ball Square Liquors was closed for several days in July, as reported by Somerville Wicked Local.

The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) ordered the liquor store to serve the mandatory five-day suspension after investigators searched store records and determined last summer that Ball Square Liquors had been illegally selling alcohol to six establishments: The Greek American Social Club and The Demosthenes Greek American Democrat Club in Somerville, Desi Dhaba in Cambridge, Kathmandu Restaurant in Arlington, Kabab Corner in Medford, and Santorini in Revere.

Records show Ball Square Liquors paid the ABCC a $68,323 fee in lieu of an 85-day suspension, but Ball Square Liquors owner Chris Lianos said he couldn't do anything about the mandatory five-day suspension.
"The only thing I can say is this business that unfortunately happened to us, is something that was happening years ago," Lianos said. "It's a different business now. We're putting it behind us and we will continue to move forward with growing the business the way we have in the last three or four years."

Lianos pointed out that Ball Square Liquors received Best of Boston honors in 2011 and 2013.

According to findings last summer from the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, Kathmandu Spice in Arlington made 105 purchases from Ball Square Liquors, totaling $14,320. Owner Sheela Mandahar told investigators she bought alcohol from the establishment and the store also made deliveries to her restaurant.

State law requires restaurant owners to purchase alcohol from licensed distributors, not storefronts. But Mandahar said she found it difficult to find distributors willing to deliver the small amounts of beer and wine Kathmandu Spice needs.

"I don't need that much. I only need a little beer," Mandahar said, according to reports.

Kathmandu Spice paid $1,200 in fines in lieu of a suspension.

Jon Carlisle, communications director for the state treasurer's office, which oversees the ABCC, said MassachusettsÂ’ law addressing distributor sales is an old one, and said its basis is uncertain.
"These laws have been on the books for many years, many since the general time around Prohibition, so the precise thinking at the time the law was crafted is a bit cloudy," Carlisle said in an email. "We see this violation from time to time, but it's not something that's particularly widespread. When we do encounter it, we take it quite seriously, and mete out penalties accordingly."

July 15, 2014

Liquor Stores to Open Earlier on Sundays?

Massachusetts liquor stores would be able to open their doors two hours earlier on Sundays under a bill approved by state lawmakers.

The Senate on Tuesday passed on a voice vote a bill to allow the retail sale of alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

Currently retain liquor sales are banned until noon.

The House has already approved the bill, which needs final approval in both chambers before heading to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk for his signature.

The bill is the latest effort by lawmakers to chip away at Massachusetts so-called ''blue laws,'' some of which dated back to the Puritan leaders of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony.

A total ban on Sunday sales of alcohol at liquor stores had remained in place for two centuries in Massachusetts until it was lifted in 2003.

July 4, 2014

Bill would let wineries ship legally to Mass.

The Boston Globe reported today that Massachusetts consumers are one step closer to getting wine delivered straight to their doorsteps.

The state Legislature has created a new permit system that will allow out-of-state wineries to sell and ship their bottlings directly to Massachusetts consumers beginning next year. If approved by Governor Patrick, the legislation would resolve a longstanding frustration of wine enthusiasts who found it nearly impossible to sample new vintages that were not available at their local store.

"This is good news for Massachusetts wine enthusiasts, who will now be able to purchase wines they currently don't have access to," said Robert Dwyer of Wellesley, who blogs about wine, as reported by the Globe.

The new permit system was necessary after a federal court in 2008 struck down a previous Massachusetts law that allowed limited direct-to-consumer sales, mostly from small wineries. Wineries can obtain the new permit for $300, and would then be allowed to ship up to 12 cases a year to a Massachusetts customer.

Under the bill, wineries are required to label their packages as containing alcohol and indicate that they must be delivered to someone of legal drinking age. Massachusetts taxes must be applied to the purchase, and wineries that break the rules are subject to fines or suspensions of their permit.

Getting it here, though, might still be difficult. Some freight companies such as UPS refuse to ship wine to Massachusetts because the state requires they obtain a special license for each truck that delivers alcohol, said Jeff Carroll, director of compliance for ShipCompliant, which helps wineries negotiate state laws.

Most other states offer shippers so-called "fleet licenses," a single permit that covers a company's entire trucking fleet, but Carroll said it was unclear if the measure approved by the Massachusetts Legislature resolves the shipping issue. There is a separate bill pending in the Legislature that would allow for fleet permits, but that hasn't progressed in nearly a year.

In other states, the direct-to-consumer wine business has grown rapidly. In 2013, almost $1.6 billion of wine was shipped to consumers nationally, according to ShipCompliant. On a per-capita basis, Massachusetts neighbors Connecticut and New Hampshire were both among the top-10 purchasers of mail-order wine last year.

The Massachusetts legislation was in part spurred by a lobbing blitz last year from former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who owns a winery in Washington State. Bledsoe likes to tell the story of how he sold wine to his successor at the Patriots, Tom Brady, but could not send it to Brady's home in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the Globe reported, package stores in Massachusetts had long opposed direct-to-consumer sales and had asked the Legislature to more sharply limit who could ship wine into the state.

"The restrictions are somewhat less severe than we would have liked," said Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association. "But that is what a compromise does. It doesn't make anyone totally happy."

The new wine-by-mail permit was included in the state budget that lawmakers passed earlier this week. The governor has until next week to sign the budget or reject individual items in it.

June 15, 2014

Somerville Paper Editorializes on Liquor Laws

Good piece in the Somerville Journal about the liquor license quota system and Governor Patrick's desire to loosen the current cap and restrictions.

April 11, 2014

Springfield Nightclub Shutting Down

A Springfield nightclub will be temporarily shutting down, following a meeting between an owner of the club and the city's director of licensing, a spokesperson for Mayor Domenic Sarno said.

Director of Communications James Leydon said that Lux nightclub on Worthington Street will cease operations.

According to Leydon, Director of Licensing Alesia Days met with Paul Ramesh, who is in the process of selling the club to Sherwood Jarrett, who is overseeing Lux's day-to-day operations with Gabriel Reyes.

"Attorney Alesia Days has indicated that the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has raised administrative issues with the pending transfer to Mr. Jarrett. Until these issues are resolved, Lux nightclub will remain closed," Leydon wrote in a statement sent to 22News.

The nightclub on lower Worthington Street received recent attention, first after a shooting outside the club, and again when an assistant city solicitor issued a cease-and-desist order regarding an upcoming event there.

April 8, 2014

Cities and Towns Seeks Add'l Licenses

Good piece in the Gloucester Times about the cap/quota system in cities and towns across the state, and recent efforts made to increase the number of liquor licenses available in any given municipality.

December 25, 2013

Three Danvers businesses caught in liquor sting

Two Danvers restaurants and one liquor store were caught selling liquor to an underaged "operative," Police Chief Neil Ouellette told the selectmen at a recent meeting, as reported by the Danvers Herald.

"Unfortunately, I'm a little bit troubled to report that we had three situations of non-compliance where an underage operative was, in fact, served alcohol beverages," Ouellette said.

The compliance check sting was conducted on Friday, Nov. 29, in the late afternoon and early evening. While the majority of restaurants that serve alcohol and liquor stores in town passed the test, Brutole Restaurant on Route 1 and Hong Kong Café at 12 Maple St. served the young woman a Bud Light. And the woman was able to purchase a bottle of red wine at Merchant Liquor Mart at 88 High St.

The Police Department conducts the compliance checks twice a year in an effort to remind owners of liquor licenses that Danvers strongly backs strict enforcement of underage drinking laws.

"Chief, I'm very disappointed," said Selectman Dan Bennett. "Three violations on one night. We had been doing pretty good. I thought, your sting, if you will call it that, was a good educational tool, letting people know that we are coming out to check. We expect people to be compliant."

Ouellette explained that each of the businesses was in violation of the rule in Massachusetts state law that makes it illegal to sell or furnish an alcoholic beverage to a person under 21.

December 19, 2013

Franklin council to review penalties for liquor license violators

Franklin town councilors will discuss new guidelines for penalizing businesses caught selling liquor to minors, according to the Milford Daily News.

All businesses found to have illegally sold alcohol to a minor face possible suspension of their liquor licenses, with the penalties handed down by the council. In recent years, the majority of violations have come as a result of police department sting operations, during which a teenager working with law enforcement attempts to purchase an alcoholic beverage.

Usually the council asks the police chief for a recommendation before doling out punishment.

The proposed guidelines, though, would give councilors a starting point when deciding how long suspensions should run.

According to the guidelines, first offenders are to receive a three- to five-day suspension, with three days to serve and two put on hold for two years unless there is another violation; second-time offenders would get a five- to seven-day suspension, with three to serve and five put off; and third-time offenders face losing their license for five to seven days.

The suspensions should begin on the day the violation occurs, according to the guidelines.

There are several factors the council could consider when deciding the penalties, including the business' willingness to acknowledge the violation and history of suspensions.

The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission reviews each case after the local liquor license governing board makes its ruling. The ABCC may weigh the difference between violations resulting from sting operations differently than those that occur under normal circumstances.

October 27, 2013

Hingham restaurant owners oppose proposed liquor license fee hike

Several Hingham restaurant owners sent the Selectmen a clear message -- not to double the current all-alcoholic common victualler annual license fees -- from $2,000 to $4,000 as recently proposed, as reported by wicked local hingham.

Representatives/owners from Scarlet Oak Tavern, Salsa's, Burtons Grill, Liberty Grill, Eat Well (Tosca, Star's, Tosca Caffe), the Square Cafe, Ocean Kai, and the Allston-based Restaurant & Business Alliance attended a recent meeting when the issue appeared on the agenda. Most spoke -- none in favor of the $2,000 increase, with a few open to a gradual increase over time.

A recent survey of 19 comparable communities found that Hingham's all-alcoholic common victualler license fees are far lower than those of some of the other towns.

As a result, Town Administrator Ted Alexiades recommended increasing the annual fee in that liquor license category only.
This is part of an ongoing effort to look at what the town is charging for various services to ensure associated costs are covered.

Salsa's owner David Littlefield said he was "blindsided" when he received a letter from the Selectmen -- sent to each of the 26 establishments in Hingham that hold that particular type of license to inform them that a fee increase is under consideration. "This year has been tough," he said. He opposed the proposed hike. "Restaurants are part of the fabric of the community."

Liberty Grill owner Christian Thompson strongly opposed the proposed increase. "I feel that restaurants are a vehicle that generates revenue for the town," he said, referring in part to meals tax funds. "I not only disapprove of the proposed increase, but I also think the fee should be rolled back."

A number of restaurant owners/operators said that last winter's snowstorms and the current Red Sox playoffs and other sports events have significantly cut into their business.

Selectmen Chair Bruce Rabuffo announced that the board received a letter from Hingham Attorney Michael Nuesse on behalf of a number of local restaurateurs who are concerned about the proposed hike.
"These business owners/operators feel a more thoughtful and careful review of any cost increase to any liquor license issued by the town is warranted," the letter states.

October 24, 2013

Milford selectmen consider stricter penalties for liquor license offenders

The Milford Daily News reports that selectmen are considering implementing stricter penalties for package stores and establishments with pouring licenses caught selling to minors, including requiring a suspension for first-time offenders.

Town Counsel Gerry Moody first brought the issue to selectmen in July while preparing for a hearing at the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

The informal policy of the board on a first offense of a liquor license holder being found serving a minor is only to impose a "warning" to the establishment, Moody said.

"The difficulty becomes, as my research has revealed, that such an action will not be considered part of the progressive discipline in response to a first offense," writes Moody in a memo to selectmen. "The ABCC does not consider such warnings or 'on probation' status to be discipline that can be counted in later settings."

Moody notes recent ABCC decisions, not necessarily on Milford cases, has been to reduce suspensions in cases where establishments have only seen warnings in the past because they are "treating the matters under consideration as first offenses."

"Your Board probably should consider a more detailed and slightly more formal progressive discipline policy," Moody wrote.

The proposed penalty proposed by Moody would include a one-day suspension for a first offense and considers imposing suspensions of three, seven and 13 days for second, third and fourth offenses, respectively.

"You will probably want to maintain sufficient flexibility for later offenses, with increased or decreased amount based upon mitigating or extenuating circumstances," Moody wrote.

The board will consider the penalties proposed by Moody.


October 18, 2013

Six Westfield Establishments Cited for Sales to Minors

The Westfield License Commission handed down suspensions and issued warnings to six businesses with liquor licenses after city police provided testimony of minors being served alcoholic beverages during a sting operation.

The sting was conducted by the Community Policing Bureau of the Westfield Police Department last August under strict guidelines established by the License Commission under state law, Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) and local policies.

The commission handed down the most stringent suspension to Ryan's Package Store located on Franklin Street because of its recent history. The board voted to impose an eight-day suspension of the license, then modified that suspension.

Ryan's will have to close for two days later this month. An additional six days of the suspension will be held in abeyance for the next eight months and forgiven if there are no future violation for selling alcohol to minors undere the age of 21-years-old.

Two restaurants were also cited for violations during the sting operation. Pasquale's Restaurant on Elm Street was also issued a four-day suspension, which will be held in abeyance for the next 12 months, while Clemenza's, which opened just prior to the sting, was issued a letter of warning based upon the owner Anthony Martone's history in other communities.

Two package stores, Pop the Cork on East Silver Street and Mr. Phipps on North Elm Street, were also cited for underage sales. Pop the Cork, which is under new management, was issued a three-day suspension to be held in abeyance for eight months, while Mr. Phipps was issued a letter of warning.

The Whip City Brew pub on North Elm Street, cited for two counts of underage serving, was issued a four-day suspension to be held in abeyance for 12 months. Board members noted that the pub has made significant changes to reduce problems.

October 14, 2013

Brookline Mulls Alcohol Changes

Proposed regulations that allow restaurant goers to bring their own alcohol and better define how licenses are transferred were discussed at the latest Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8., according to wickedlocalbrookline & the Brookline Tab.

The changes are being proposed for the town's alcoholic beverages regulations and food sales regulations, and most of the revisions were characterized as "technical corrections" by Selectmen Chairwoman Betsy DeWitt.

Nonetheless, some businesses voiced concerns over a few of the regulations.
Adam Barnosky, an attorney in Brookline, said some license holders were concerned about the new 10 a.m. designated start time to serve alcohol, since some businesses have served drinks earlier for special occasions, such as one business that showed a Red Sox game in the early morning when the team was playing in Japan.
He said Coolidge Corner Clubhouse also opens at 9 a.m. on Saturdays.

Selectman Dick Benka said businesses could petition the Selectmen to serve alcohol earlier if they wish.


Associate Town Counsel Patty Correa said the revised liquor regulations seek to enhance alcohol training requirements, as well as require the use of a "crowd manager" at some businesses, at the behest of the Fire Department.
The food regulations include a section about BYOB, namely that businesses without a liquor license can offer it.
However, those businesses would not be able to offer a corkage fee because that constitutes a sale, said DeWitt. A corkage fee is commonly charged by businesses that offer BYOB and it allows a customer to consume an alcoholic beverage onsite. The fee refers to the act of uncorking a bottle, which the restaurant employees do. Corkage fee prices vary depending on the establishment.
The BYOB regulations make it clear to restaurants that they cannot permit the consumption of alcohol by minors at the restaurant, and cannot permit drinking by someone who is intoxicated, among other rules.
Selectwoman Nancy Daly was in favor of the corkage fee, arguing that by not allowing businesses to charge for uncorking, that many would decide to not offer the service.

October 11, 2013

Justine's Table waiting on an alcohol license from Wellesley

Justine's Grill, the newly re-named restaurant on Route 9 in Wellesley, will have to keep waiting for an all-alcohol license. At a recent meeting, the selectmen again questioned the safety of the parking situation and challenged the consistency of the new application with past licenses.

The restaurant--formerly known as Justine's Table--was initially issued a common victualler license under the condition that 22 off-site parking spaces be made available on the same side of Route 9. At a hearing in late September, owner Gordon Breidenbach and his attorney presented the board with a plan that calls for off-site parking across Route 9 at Wellesley Mazda.

The initial plan to park guests' cars at the neighboring Lee Volvo had to be modified when that dealership was sold to a new owner. According to Selectman Don McCauley, that represents a material change from the initial parking arrangement laid out in the restaurant's CV license.

"I also have significant concerns about relying on the Mazda dealership on the other side of Route 9," McCauley said, stressing the issue of safety involved with people crossing the highway under the cover of darkness.

Katherine L. "Gig" Babson, chairman of the board, said those material differences as well as the safety issues would preclude the board from approving the restaurant's license. The hearing on Monday, Sept. 23, was the most recent of multiple hearings on the issue since the beginning of the summer.

Past attempts by Justine's to acquire a license have been hampered by similar parking concerns as well as uncertainty about the ownership of the restaurant.

The board had expressed concern before about the involvement of the Behrend family, which has been working to develop the area around the restaurant. According to Hanley, those issues have been resolved and Breidenbach is now the sole owner.

Still, the board expressed concern over a revelation from last month that the restaurant has been receiving a break on the rent from the landlord--Dean Behrend--until a liquor license is granted.

"The landlord has put significant equity into this business at this point," selectman Barbara Searle said of the rent abatement, "whether he's an owner or not." That arrangement, she added, is "extraordinary."

According to McCauley, the conditions of the liquor and CV licenses--with parking available as needed on a daily basis--need to be brought into concert with one another before the board addresses the safety issues associated with parking attendants crossing Route 9.


October 10, 2013

Burlington Looks to Add 8 Additional Liquor Licenses

Burlington Town Meeting has voted to allow the Board of Selectmen to seek additional liquor licenses for specific locations in town, as reported by the Burlington Patch.

The article was put forward by Precinct 6 Town Meeting Member Sonia Rollins. It is also supported by the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce, of which Rollins is the chairperson. The Burlington Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 to support the warrant article during a meeting in September.

The vote allows the board to seek eight additional licenses from the state. Originally the warrant article was for 14 licenses but Rollins put forward a modified version during the meeting at the suggestion of the state. The six licenses removed from the warrant had less specific limitation on locations and the language was deemed too vague.

The eight licenses approved will be for specific locations. Three will be limited to the Burlington Mall, three will be for New England Executive Park and two will be for a multi-screen theater complex at 20 South Avenue, AMC Theater.

A few Town Members questioned the need for more liquor licenses in Burlington. Currently the town has 27 all-alcohol licenses, five beer and wine licenses and there are an extra eight licenses set for the 3rd Avenue/Northwest Park project.

September 4, 2013

Two Franklin Businesses Caught in Sting

Ichigo Ichie was one of two Franklin businesses caught selling alcohol to a minor during recent police liquor stings, the Japanese restaurant's second such violation in as many years.

On June 28, four Franklin police officers and two underage operatives conducted liquor compliance checks at 35 businesses from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Twenty-seven passed, while six were closed.

Ichigo Ichie, 837 West Central St., and Village Mall Liquors, 60 Franklin Village Drive, failed the checks.

At Ichigo Ichie, a 19-year-old "decoy" was served a glass of beer, according to the police report. The 19-year-old at Village Mall Liquors bought a 12-pack of beer without showing ID, police said.

The latest violation marks Ichigo Ichie's second in two years.

It last failed a compliance check in July 2012, six months after celebrating its grand opening. The Town Council suspended the restaurant's liquor license for one day; Ichigo Ichie received its license on Oct. 11, 2012, according to the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

Village Mall Liquors has never recorded a violation.

Both businesses were scheduled to appear before the council Wednesday night for hearings on the violations, but the meeting was pushed to next Wednesday.