Articles Posted in ABCC

The need to regulate Massachusetts’ newly legal marijuana industry is leading to possible attempts to revamp state alcohol regulations.

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said in an interview with The Republican/MassLive.com this week that she was prompted to form a new Alcohol Task Force while looking at how other states regulate marijuana.

“While looking at cannabis, we saw what a lot of other states were doing around alcohol usage and control,” Goldberg said. “One of the models happens to have taken their alcoholic beverage commission and expanded its role.”

 

Goldberg’s office is in charge of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, the commission that enforces laws and regulations relating to the sale, purchase, possession and manufacturing of alcohol in the state. That is the reason that the state’s marijuana law, which voters passed in November, placed regulation of marijuana under the treasurer’s office as well. Goldberg is now tasked with creating and overseeing a new Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the legal marijuana industry.

The task of the new alcohol commission, which Goldberg announced last week, is to review the legal and regulatory framework governing alcoholic beverages in Massachusetts and offer suggestions on what changes should be made.

Currently, Goldberg said, the state’s alcohol laws are “antiquated” and do not interrelate. “There’s no predictability, there’s no smoothness, a fix can create another problem and has,” Goldberg said. “The law hasn’t changed much since 1933, but we’re looking at a 21st century world, so much has evolved.” Federal prohibition laws ended in 1933.

Goldberg said she views the alcoholic beverage industry as an economic driver for Massachusetts. “We want to regulate it in a way that keeps it safe while at the same time ensuring that we are supporting something that creates economic growth,” Goldberg said.

One frequently talked about problem with the liquor licensing system is a law that caps the number of liquor licenses in each city or town and requires all additional liquor licenses be approved by the state legislature, rather than by local officials. Municipal officials have long opposed this law, arguing that it hinders economic development and leads to unnecessary delays in the granting of new licenses. Both Gov. Charlie Baker and former Gov. Deval Patrick have tried to roll back the law, but lawmakers have declined to go along with it. Opponents of a change voice concerns about there being too many liquor licenses and about new licenses diluting the value of older ones.

The liquor license provision was one part of a comprehensive bill released by the Baker administration on Monday, aimed at cutting back red tape and obsolete laws that make it harder for municipal governments to operate.

Another controversial issue that the task force may examine involves the beer brewers industry, which has been seeking more freedom to switch distributors, which is difficult under current law.

One problem Goldberg identified is currently, the licensing process is slowed down by the number of investigators working for the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. So for example, if numerous restaurants apply for outdoor seating in mid-May, it might take until July for an inspector to schedule an inspection.

The task force will examine laws, regulations and the structure of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission itself. “Everything’s on the table,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said she wants any legislative wish list to be “rational and reasonable” so the fixes have the potential to be passed into law. That could mean taking incremental steps toward larger changes.

The commission will hold five regional public hearings, including one in Springfield. It is expected to provide a preliminary report within six months.

The commission will be chaired by E. Macey Russell, a partner at the law firm Choate, Hall & Stewart.

Members of the commission include: attorney Kate Cook, former Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, former chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Port Authority Rachael Rollins, adjunct professor at Quincy College Robert Cerasoli, former state Rep. John Fernandes, and Rosenberg’s press secretary Pete Wilson. None of the appointees has direct ties to the alcohol industry.

 

A Hooters restaurant that was denied a liquor license by the Dedham Board of Selectmen is pleading their case to the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

The ABCC held the appeal hearing for Dedham Wings LLC, doing business as Hooters. The restaurant was denied a liquor license transfer from Summer Shack in April.

The restaurant says the denial was unfair, citing the lack of an alcohol establishment policy and insinuating that two of the four selectmen denied the transfer because they were up for reelection weeks later, according to the Dedham Transcript.

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The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who oversees the state’s alcohol regulators, is set to launch a sweeping review of the state’s liquor laws and regulations, calling the current rules outdated, unclear, and burdensome for businesses.The ambitious effort will be led by a task force of brewers, distillers, winemakers, wholesalers, retailers, and legal experts to be convened this fall. The group will be asked to produce recommendations for legislators to consider next year.

As reported by the Boston Herald and Fox News, two young entrepreneurs are fighting to bring back happy hour.

Former Boston-area students Sam Davidson and Brian Sachetta have launched a petition to overturn Massachusetts’ longstanding ban on happy-hour discounts — and have gathered more than 8,500 signatures so far.

The Boston Herald first reported on the effort. The petition, titled “Bring Happy Hour Back To Boston,” features 11 reasons why happy hour should be reinstated, arguing that after its prohibition in 1984, the hours after work “stopped being ‘happy’ and became just ‘meh.’”

The day when certain Boston diners can bring their own bottle of chardonnay or can of pale ale to their favorite neighborhood haunt drew closer this week with approval of BYOB by another city panel, as reported by the Boston Globe.

The city’s Licensing Board voted unanimously Thursday to allow BYOB — short for “bring your own bottle.” That action followed a City Council vote in December that set Boston on the path to allowing BYOB, but only at establishments without liquor licenses and only in specific outlying neighborhoods.

“I see this as an opportunity to bring increased economic activity to neighborhoods across Boston, and I thank the Licensing Board for taking up this measure that has great potential to make a positive impact on our city’s economic growth,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a prepared statement.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.