August 15 2018

Burlington Mall Ownership Requests 9 New Liquor Licenses for Redesign Project

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington’s largest retail location is looking to provide more places to toss one back.


Representatives from Simon Property Group, owners of the Burlington Mall, were before the Burlington Board of Selectmen to request the placement of a Town Meeting warrant article to petition the state legislature for additional, site-specific, liquor and beer/wine licenses for a planned redevelopment.


As reported by BNEWS, the Planning Board recently approved a site plan for big changes at the former Sears and Sears Auto Center at the mall. The biggest change will be on the first floor of the Sears building. Rather than keeping it as a large, single-use retail location, the plan calls for expanding the mall corridor into the existing space and creating numerous small retail and restaurant locations.   


Simon Property is also looking to demolish the Auto Center and create a 35,000 square foot building for small retail and restaurant locations.


With a planned influx of new restaurants as part of the redevelopment Simon Property is now seeking new liquor licenses to have on hand for incoming eateries. Attorney Mark Vaughan of Riemer & Braunstein, representing Simon Property, said in total the request is for five all-alcohol licenses and four beer/wine licenses for a total of nine new licenses.


Vaughan argued these licenses were needed for the Burlington Mall to remain competitive against other large retail properties in the area.


“The retail landscape has shifted and changed in the last several years,” he said. “People read about the rise of online shopping and the closings of big retail stores like Sears. This is an opportunity for Simon to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of customers. There has been a lot of interest among restaurants, smaller operators, to locate here, but they would need liquor licenses. These would enhance the mix of the mall and provide opportunities for longer patron visit and help the mall be more competitive.”


Members of the board expressed an interest in helping the mall remain competitive but questioned the number of liquor licenses needed to meet that goal and the appropriateness of having so many in one location.


Town Administrator John Petrin said the Burlington Mall currently has three all-alcohol licenses in use at Legal Seafoods, The Cheesecake Factory and The Friendly Toast. There are also two licenses from the now-closed Besitos and Uno’s Pizzeria that are currently still tied to those establishments. On top of that the mall has one beer/wine license and three Locational Licenses that were granted by special legislation in 2014 that have not been used. So in total the mall currently has nine licenses and is asking for an additional nine to have a total of 18. There is some uncertainty, however, that the licenses from Besitos and Uno’s will necessarily stay with the property.


“I heard everything they had to say but was not eager to support five all-alcohol and four beer/wine licenses,” Board Vice Chairman Bob Hogan, who is on the board’s subcommittee for alcohol licenses, said. “We have a lot of licenses in town and it’s not in everybody’s best interest to flood licenses into town and jeopardize what’s already invested here.”


Hogan said he was leaning towards having a conversation about perhaps one all-alcohol license and four beer/wine licenses.  


Vaughan said the 2014 licenses have been held in reserve for a project just like the one currently in the works but that they are not sufficient for the vision Simon Properties has for the redesign.


“The plan all along was to use those licenses for the Sears redevelopment so it’s taken some years before we could be in a position to use them,” he said. “We wouldn’t be asking for the additional licenses if they weren’t vital to success of Burlington Mall. We’re not really competing with Burlington restaurants but with other area big malls.”


Jonathan Murphy, an Executive Vice President with Simon Properties, said MarketStreet Lynnfield as 14 liquor licenses and Northshore Mall in Peabody as 18. He argued the new licenses were necessary to keep customers on the property for longer periods of time by offering them something besides shopping.

“The best mall in New England shouldn’t have the lowest time spent on property by customers, which is what we have now,” he said. “If we didn’t believe this was the best path forward we wouldn’t be doing it and we wouldn’t be here before you today.”


Despite the arguments of the petitioners, board members said they needed to further discuss the exact number of licenses to put in the warrant article.

“We understand that the Burlington Mall is important to Burlington’s success but there are other business parks and property owners we have to take into account,” Chairman Chris Hartling said.


Still, Hartling added, the board is open to meeting Simon Properties somewhere in the middle.


“The message I hope you’re getting is we have work to do but I also hope you get the message that we understand the importance of the mall so we just need to do some fine tuning on this,” he said.


“I think nine is too many but I’m willing to work with them,” Selectman Joe Morandi said.


The board voted to continue the matter to its next meeting.


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