September 29 2016

Town Meeting Says Burlington Can Apply for Additional Liquor Licenses

By: Rich Hosford

After a lengthy discussion on Wednesday night, Town Meeting members voted 54 to 41 to approve a warrant article that gives the town permission to petition the state legislature for six all alcohol licenses and beer & wine licenses that will be designated to the Town Center Overlay District. 


The article was submitted by the Board of Selectmen and Selectman Chris Hartling and Town Administrator John Petrin spoke in favor of it. 


Hartling said the purpose of the licenses was to attract smaller, locally owned restaurants and that will begin a revitalization of the town center district. 


“The idea behind having these establishments is to have an area that is a desirable destination,” he said. “They will enhance the social and economic viability of the downtown area and attract the businesses we want to see there. They will be places where a family, a couple or friends can go. We don’t have enough places where you can go and sit down and have a casual evening.” 


There were a number of questions raised and concerns voiced. One big one was how this would impact traffic in the area, which is already quite busy, especially at peak times. Hartling said the restaurants would be spread out through the district and also that they would be smaller than many of the restaurants in town. 


That led some members to ask by what mechanism the town, and specifically the Board of Selectmen, would use to ensure that the restaurants were the desired size. 


Hartling said that because it will likely take a year or more for the licenses to be approved by the state, there is time to work out the details. 


“The idea is we would have things in place to prevent larger restaurants, a plan would be set in place and added to the Route 3A Overlay,” he said. 


There were some doubts about this answer but town counsel representative John Giorgio of Kopelman & Paige explained that when it comes to setting parameters for who can receive a liquor license the board has a lot of discretion, as long as they are consistent. 


 “If fair and consistent I think the board would have a great deal of discretion in determining if a particular proposal was of need to the town,” he said. 


It was also pointed out that unlike the licenses the town has by right (based on population), that have become commodities that restaurant owners sell each other, these licenses go back to the town if a business closes. That gives the town much more control over the types of restaurants that can use them. 

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