April 13 2016

Selectmen Discuss Proposed Liquor License for Mobil Gas Station

By: Rich Hosford

A request for a liquor license by a gas station and convenience store became a controversial topic of discussion during Monday. 


Assaad Nasr, owner of Gasoline Retailers Inc., which owns the Mobil station at 173 Bedford Street, was seeking a wine and malt liquor license to be able to sell beer and wine. 

Attorney Mark Vaughan of Riemer & Braunstein said Nasr already has five other gas station/convenience stores in the state that have the right to sell beer and wine and that he has managed them without problems for years. 


He also said his client would reconfigure the store so the beer and wine coolers would be close to the register. The coolers would also be lockable to ensure alcohol is sold only during the allowed times. They would also install electronic cash registers that reminds employees to check for identification when an alcoholic item is scanned. 


Vaughan also said that because the store is not in a residential area and caters mostly to be people commuting to and from work he thinks it would be an ideal place for this practice. He added that this store is not a place where children or teenagers congregate and hang out. 


Finally, he said because it was more than a mile away from any liquor stores it would not be entering a crowded market. 


“You can’t argue there is not a public need due to high concentration,” he said. 


Town Administrator John Petrin said he had toured the business and he was confident that the business could implement the cash register with an electronic ID system. He also, however, raised some concerns given to him by Burlington Police Chief Michael Kent. 


“Our police chief does have concerns with a convenience store of this kind selling alcohol because the employees have to watch multiple things at once,” he said. “If there is only one employee on duty they have to see to the store and also have to take care of the pumps.”


Nasr said the manager is TIPS certified, that he doesn’t have employees less than 18 years of age, and he stresses the importance of not selling to minors very strongly to all of his employees. 


Members of the board also raised concerns, both about the possibility of alcohol ending up in the hands of minors and about the practice in general of having convenience stores selling alcohol. They referenced the 2013 decision, made when the board had a somewhat different makeup, when a license was granted to Carli Convenience Plus in a 3-2 vote.  


“My personal opinion is there is no need for it,” Selectman Joe Morandi said. “I don’t want to see this become a practice in Burlington.” 


“The last time something like this came before the board I wasn’t on it but I opposed it,” Selectman Chris Hartling added. “As the chief says the staffing could become an issue and I would hesitate in supporting this because of that.”


Selectman Mike Runyan, who voted against the motion to grant a license to Carli Convenience, said the board should consider this proposal closely before taking a vote. 


“We didn’t take the time and do our homework last time around and I’d like to this time,” he said. “For this applicant and any others.”


He made a motion to continue the hearing until the next meeting and in the meantime have the alcohol subcommittee come up with guidelines for liquor license applications for convenience stores and gas station. 


The board voted 4-1 to approve that motion with Hartling dissenting.  


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