June 14 2016

Selectmen Reject Beer & Wine License for Bedford Street Mobil Station

By: Rich Hosford

The Board of Selectmen voted overwhelmingly to deny a petition by a Burlington gas station to sell alcohol and though the move went against a former boards’ decision concerning convenience stores it did show consistency among individual members. 


As reported on BNEWS, 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. 


He was first before the board in April but at that time the selectmen said they needed more time to consider the proposal. They also agreed to have the alcohol subcommittee meet to discuss the idea of granting licenses to gas stations. In the intervening time the subcommittee made no changes to the policy, Board Chairman Daniel Grattan said. 


During the meeting, 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 remind 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. 


Nasr also gave the board a petition he had put up in the gas station that he said was signed by over 120 Burlington residents who are customers. 


Most members of the board expressed their disapproval for the proposed license. 


“I’m uncomfortable with this whole concept of liquor licenses for these types of businesses,” Selectman Mike Runyan said. “It has nothing to do with the applicant. I don’t see any benefit to the community in general. I think there is ample opportunity for the public to purchase alcohol currently.”


Joe Morandi said he said what he thought about the idea at the first hearing when he said he was not in favor.  


“Much like Mike and Joe I’m philosophically opposed to the idea,” Selectman Chris Hartling said, addressing Nasr. “I’m not opposed to you but opposed to the idea.”


Nasr argued that he had worked hard to get everything set to meet the board’s requirements for other stores that sell alcohol. 


“After everything we’ve been through I don’t think there is any need to reject the license,” he said. “No abutters complained, our location is perfect for this and we won’t affect anyone else.”


He also pointed to Carli Convenience Plus, a convenience store that was granted a beer and wine license in 2013. 


That, as Town Administrator John Petrin pointed out, was under a board of selectmen with a different makeup. 


During that vote in 2013 selectmen Ralph Patuto, Walter Zenkin and Dan Grattan voted in favor of the license while selectmen Mike Runyan and Bob Hogan voted against it. That vote was also taken near the election that saw Hartling take his seat and during the campaign he said he was against liquor licenses for convenience stores. 


Everyone remained consistent with their votes this week. Runyan, Hogan and Hartling, joined by Morandi, the newest member, voted against the license. Only Grattan voted in favor. 


After the meeting Nasr said he thought it was a bad decision. 


“I’m in compliance with everything,” he said. “Extra traffic is not the issue because the store will have the same footage. Why won’t they give me the opportunity to increase sales at my store and offer my customers this service?” 

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