Mansfield Selectmen Vote Against Wine Store

The owners of Wines & More in Mansfield Crossing have assured the town that the business is strong and it does not need a loan to stay in business. But, as reported by the Sun Chronicle, the liquor retailer might have to prove that after selectmen denied the store permission to put its liquor license up as collateral for $700,000 in financing from Citizens Bank.

Attacked by local competitors as an out-of-state big box chain trying to bend Massachusetts’ strict liquor store rules, Wines & More has drawn intense opposition since it came to town a year ago.

Despite approving the requests of two other local businesses to use liquor licenses as collateral since 2000, a divided board of selectmen said Wines & More was different.

“There are too many questions being asked, and too many uncertainties,” Chairman Jess Aptowitz said.

Among the questions raised by selectmen about Wines & More included whether it was following rules barring stores from paying franchise fees with alcohol revenue, and whether the loan’s origination in Rhode Island would cause jurisdiction issues.

But the biggest uncertainty appeared to be the lingering suspicion, leveled by local liquor store owners, that Wines & More is a front for a Rhode Island chain trying to get a foothold in Massachusetts, which does not allow any business to hold more than three “off-premises” liquor licenses.

In dissent, Selectmen Kevin Moran and Olivier Kozlowski said they also had reservations about the loan and Wines & More, but didn’t see any legitimate legal basis to deny the application.

In two hours of sometimes contentious debate, Wines & More lawyer Edward Valanzola pointed out that, even if approved, the loan would not take away any of the town’s authority over any other entity trying to use the license.

Wines & More can appeal the decision to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.