Concerns Build Over Newton Supermarket's Liquor License Application
Small business opportunity and safety top the list of concerns for Chestnut Hill residents and business owners.
Local residents and business owners are pushing back against a Newton supermarket's application to sell liquor, citing concerns that the store's sale of beer and wine would drive traffic away from nearby small businesses.
The Chestnut Hill Star Market, located in the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center on Route 9, will appear before the Newton Board of License Commissioners tomorrow (Feb. 21) for a hearing on a license to sell beer and wine.
The application comes just a few months after Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law allowing more supermarkets in the state to hold liquor licenses. Under the bill, the cap on liquor licenses held by a store will increase from three to nine over the next eight years.
But with three package stores within short walking distance from the Star Market, many residents and local business owners don't feel there is a need for another outlet for liquor sales in that area.
"There's been a successful liquor store in [the Urban Grape] space for 45 years," Urban Grape co-owner Hadley Douglas told Newton Patch. "We feel that the package store need for this area is more than met by [Urban Grape], Winestone and GPS Liquors."
Opponents argue that the Star Market liquor license will likely drive traffic away from the smaller liquor stores like Urban Grape.
"I hate to see these mom and pop stores commit and work within the city of Newton and have them overrun by these bigger stores," said Chestnut Hill resident Gloria Gavris.
Although it's unclear whether a liquor license would actually put Urban Grape out of business, Douglas said the supermarket beer/wine offering would definitely hurt the business' profit margins. Some of that profit, Douglas said, is used to support local schools and community organizations.
According to Steve Sylven, a spokesman for the Star Market/Shaw's grocery store chain, customer feedback was one of the driving forces behind the store's application for a liquor license. Employees have been polling customers in the store, Sylven said, and collecting signatures in support of the application.
"The application is rooted in our desire to be able to provide the additional product and convenience our customers are seeking," Sylven said.
Sylven confirmed in a phone conversation with Newton Patch that the liquor license is also part of "larger improvements" the company is planning for the Chestnut Hill store.
This is the second liquor license the Star Market supermarkets have applied for in recent weeks. Sylven said the store recently applied for a license in Marshfield, but local officials turned down the application.
In addition to concerns for local small businesses, some opponents say access to alcohol could go unsupervised in a larger store like Star Market.
"There is concern in a large store like [Star Market] where you're selling other products, things can go unnoticed," says Newton Centre resident and Star Market customer Melissa Dietrich. "In a smaller liquor store, people are on heightened alert and are a little more attentive and aware [of who is in their store]."
Both Dietrich and Boston College neighbor Amy Sellke noted the large presence of college students in the area, and the possibility for increased alcohol availability for those students.
"These are kids away from home and parents and should be considered when this license is discussed," Sellke said in a letter to Newton city officials. "I am weekly picking up the remains of the Bud Light 30 rack left scattered on our road."
As a result of the local concerns, Urban Grape has started an online petition against the Star Market liquor license. As of Feb. 19, nearly 200 people have signed the petition.
"People on both sides should be letting people know what they want here," Douglas said. "There needs to be a discussion."
The Board of License Commissioners is set to hold a hearing on the Star Market liquor license at its meeting tomorrow (Feb. 21), which will take place at 7:30 p.m. in room 209 at City Hall.
What do you think about the possibility of the Chestnut Hill Star Market selling beer/wine? Vote in our poll and share your thoughts in the comments box below.