August 14 2018

Selectmen Set Revocation Hearing for Burlington Beer Works Liquor License

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Board of Selectmen have seemingly run out of patience with a long-in-the-works restaurant project that has not been started though a building permit was issued months ago.


The board voted 5-0-0 to schedule a revocation hearing for the liquor license previously granted to Burlington Beer Works for their proposed restaurant in Crossroads Plaza at 34 Cambridge Street. The hearing will be on Monday, September 10.


This hearing has been a long time in the making. In December of 2017 and January of 2018 the Board of Selectmen held public hearings to consider revoking the liquor license previously granted to the business for what they said was an unnecessary delay. The project was first brought to the town in 2015 and after some changes and modifications to the plan a building permit in February of this year. The liquor license transfer from Outback Steakhouse, which had the same location as the proposed Beer Works, was approved in November of 2015.


On December 18, Attorney Paul Sporn, representing Joseph Slesar of Slezar Bros., the owner of Beer Works, said that once a small issue with the Planning Board was cleared up and the building permit was granted work would begin “within 10 days.” Though the permit was issued in February it was never picked up from the Building Department and no work has been done at the site.


Sporn said on Monday night that there have been many changes in the plaza since his client first proposed the restaurant location. Since that first proposal Roche Bros closed and Target announced its mini-story, Busa Wine & Liquors and Bauer Hockey closed and Total Wine & More began renovations of Bauer with plans of moving in.  


“As you probably know just by viewing what is going on at Crossroads, it is in something of construction disarray,” he said. “My client’s property is between the Target site, under construction for several months, and Total Wine. If my client had been open in February of this year, sandwiched between two large construction sites, I believe he would be out of business.”


Board of Selectmen Chairman Chris Hartling asked when the decision to not continue with the project was reached but Sporn did not have a direct answer.


Instead he said his client has been working with Edens, the property group that owns the plaza, about transferring the liquor license to them for a new restaurant project still in the works.


“They have the right of first refusal on the license,” Sporn said, referring to Edens and the tenant agreement Slezar Bros has with the property owner.


This statement was met with some skepticism from members of the board. Board Vice Chairman Bob Hogan said Edens doesn’t have the right to just take over the liquor license.


“It’s in our contract,” Sporn said.


“It may be in your lease but it’s not in our rules,” Hogan said.


Town Administrator John Petrin told BNEWS after the meeting that the rule is the liquor license belongs the licensee and if it is unused the town has the right to revoke and take it back. During the meeting board members started to discuss doing just that in September.


Still, Sporn argued that it would be in the best interest of his client, Edens and the town to let the current negotiations conclude. He said his client and Edens have been talking to a “big entity” representing a different restaurant that, he said, could take the place of Beer Works and fill the vacant location.


“I am prepared to come back in one month and update you,” he said. “I don’t believe the revocation hearing next month will benefit the town, my client or the landlord. I believe we’re close to being able to sell the license to another party that you will approve of and request the hearing be in October.”


He also strongly suggested that legal action would follow if the town revoked the license.

“If there was a revocation it would only result - it would be good business for me and good business for (town counsel David) DeLuca,” he said. “I say that with all due respect.”


Members of the board, however, decided to go ahead with the hearing. At a motion from Joe Morandi, who throughout this process has clearly expressed his displeasure with the situation, they voted unanimously to place the revocation hearing on the September 10 meeting agenda.


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