October 29 2019

Hearing to Possible Revoke Beer Works Liquor License Continued to December

By: Rich Hosford

The long saga of the Burlington Beer Works liquor license continues. 


At Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting the board voted to continue a public hearing to possibly revoke the license for extended inactivity until December to give the business another chance to transfer it. 


As reported on BNEWS, last year the Board of Selectmen voted to revoke the liquor license for Slesar Bros. Brewing Company due to a long delay starting work on the Burlington Beer Works project in the Crossroads Plaza at 34 Cambridge Street. However, in January of this year the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Compliance Commission (ABCC) said in a decision following a January 10 hearing that the town did not give the licensee sufficient time to either start operating its business or to attempt to transfer it to another entity. According to ABCC regulations the license authority, in the case the selectmen, must give six months warning.  


In March of this year the board opened a public hearing for a possible revocation of the license and continued it to October 7 to more than meet the six month requirement. That hearing was further continued to this week at the request of Slesar Bros. 


On Monday, attorney Paul Sporn, representing the restaurant company, said that though many efforts had been made there was still no deal to transfer the license to another party. He said they had hired a liquor license broker and had even held an auction that was advertised to the restaurant community but had received no takers. He said the reason might be a downturn in the restaurant business and pointed to recent closings, including Del Frisco’s Grill, as evidence. He also said the fact that the location they were slated to occupy, which has traditionally been a site of restaurants (Outback Steakhouse most recently), has not been filled suggests there is difficulty in the restaurant world. 


“The fact that they can’t find a tenant speaks to the challenges that everyone is facing,” he said. 


Sporn also argued that his client is not like some of the big restaurant groups that own multiple franchises across the country and could absorb the hit of losing out on the opportunity to charge for the transfer of a liquor license. He noted that Slesar Bros. paid $195,000 for the license and for the company’s owner, Joe Slesar, that is a lot of money. 


It is my belief that a cancellation or revocation of the license serves no interest of any party,” he said. “I don’t believe it is sound policy. I believe the cancellation would, in some respect, be punitive. I understand the board’s frustration that this did not come to pass - but my client is a small operator that employees roughly 200 people. The loss from a revocation would have a serious impact on his business and would potentially adversely affect others.”


Instead, Sporn said his client would be willing to work with the board and town counsel to come up with a “any framework for an efficient resolution that would be to the benefit of all parties.”


Members of the board greeted these arguments with both skepticism and some sympathy.   


“You are here to represent your client’s interest so they don’t lose money,” Selectman Jim Tigges said. “Our clients are the residents of Burlington and we are here to ensure they don’t lose money.”


Board Chairman Joe Morandi said he was frustrated that Slesar himself does not come to the meetings. 


“I don’t know why your client can’t come in,” he said.  


Selectman Bob Hogan said the situation is frustrating but that he understands the impact a revocation would have. 


“As a member of alcohol sub committee I too have been frustrated not only with this but the general outlook,” he said. “I do have a feeling of remorse for the owner if he does lose out on that $195,000.” 


In the end the board voted to continue the hearing until December 16. The board pointed out that the business would still have to pay the $3,000 renewal fee in November or the license would certainly be revoked. 


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