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Board Mulls Alcohol Sale Regulations

If the measure passes in Needham on Nov. 6, selectmen will hold a public hearing on the rules later that month.

Though voters haven't yet decided whether Needham should allow , selectmen have begun considering a list of regulations for if the special election question passes on Nov. 6.

Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick put together a draft of proposed regulations and suggested the board bring the rules before the public at a hearing in early November, after the election.

If the ballot question passes on Nov. 6, Needham selectmen could issue up to six licenses for the retail sale of beer, wine and liquor in town, with two additional wine and beer licenses available after 2018, for a total of eight.

Fitzpatrick said she and her staff had culled the list of proposed regulations from about a dozen other communities that already allow the regulated sale of alcohol. They also attempted not to duplicate rules outlined by Massachusetts General Laws, except for emphasis.

The Needham proposal calls for a licensing fee of $2,000 for a retail package good store selling all kinds of alcoholic beverages and $1,500 for a store selling only wine and malt beverages.

Fitzpatrick said her staff had reviewed several comparable towns including Natick, Newton, Framingham, Stoneham, Holliston and others to determine a licensing fee. Fees in those communities ranged from $1,500 to $2,500.

Among the regulations Fitzpatrick and her staff recommended on Tuesday:

  • Employees would have to be 21 years of age unless they will not be directly handling alcoholic beverages.
  • No seating or tables would be allowed so as not to encourage consumption on site, which would be prohibited except for sampling, such as during a wine tasting event.
  • All employees handling alcoholic beverages would be required to complete board-approved courses in alcohol safety training.
  • All employees would have to be re-certified every three years through a town-approved program.
  • A designated manager would be required to be on site at all times while the establishment is open.
  • Licensees would have to make “reasonable and diligent” efforts to prevent loitering, disturbances and other issues on their property and could be held responsible for such activity, whether present or not.
  • In considering a license, the board would especially consider the business’ proximity to residential neighborhoods and other “sensitive areas” as determined by the board.
  • Food stores could be granted licenses, but convenience stores would not.
  • Alcohol signage in windows and other areas where it can be viewed from outside the establishment would be limited. Advertisement at local sporting events and school events would be prohibited.
  • Hours of operation would be limited to 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays and legal holidays (although the board could further limit hours for a specific store, depending on location and other factors). No alcohol would be sold on Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Day or Christmas.

Selectman Moe Handel made it clear that each license applicant would have to go through a separate public hearing, where specific concerns about the location or business could be addressed.

Selectman John Bulian said he would like to see the town require businesses to use new technology that can accurately verify false identification.

“We don’t want the liquor store to become a magnet for kids from other communities,” he said. “I just want to make sure that kids in other towns know: Don’t come to Needham. You’re not going to be able to buy alcohol here.”

While other selectmen agreed it was important to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors, they also felt it should be up to the licensee how that is done.

“I’m very uneasy about prescribing a method. The result is what I’m interested in,” Handel said.

Selectman Matt Borrelli said he felt that a package store’s potential impact on all neighborhoods should be considered, not just residential. Nearby businesses, for example, could have just as serious concerns as residents.

Other selectmen said they felt those issues would be addressed at individual public hearings and that it was important to specifically reference residential areas.

A tentative public hearing date on the regulations was set for Tuesday, Nov. 13, if the measure passes on Nov. 6.

For more about the special town election process, check out the town clerk's guide.

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