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Phantom Gourmet Creators Propose Repeal of Eat-to-Drink Bylaw for 100-Seat Restaurants

A Phantom Gourmet-owned trade organization wants the town to consider allowing 100-seat restaurants to serve alcohol without food.

 

Due to a November 2011 Town Meeting action, restaurants in Wellesley with a when previously, only restaurants with 100 seats or more could do so. Though this decision was made in an effort to bolster business, the move is not sitting well with everyone.

The Restaurant and Business Alliance, an Allston-based trade association founded by the creators of The Phantom Gourmet television show, submitted a proposal to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night that would eliminate a longstanding bylaw that says a patron must order food to be served alcohol at any Wellesley restaurant. A provision of the proposal, officially submitted by Restaurant and Business Alliance Executive Director Vincent Errichetti, states that the change would only apply to restaurants with 100 seats or more and would not be in effect past 10 p.m.

Selectwoman Barbara Searle asked why the proposal leaves out restaurants with less than 100 seats. Errichetti stopped short of saying that if the bylaw were repealed it would give the 100-plus seat restaurants an advantage.

“We wanted to make sure we gave the Board of Selectmen the flexibility in the future…to control this,” Errichetti said. “So you’ll know who it will affect and won’t affect pretty clearly.”

Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Ginger, has led a crusade to repeal the bylaw exclusively for 100-plus seat restaurants since before the 50-plus seat change was passed at Town Meeting last year. He argued that due to higher costs, the November Town Meeting action made the business landscape unfair for owners of 100-plus seat restaurants.

“[Owners of 50-plus seat restaurants] could sell the same steak for $18 with their one manager vs. my 11 salaried managers – that costs me $28 to sell,” he said at an Oct. 31, 2011 Board of Selectmen meeting. “It doesn’t matter how the food tastes at the end of the day, that is competition.”

Representatives from The Cottage and Blue Ginger – both 100-plus seat restaurants – spoke at Tuesday’s meeting in association with the Restaurant and Business Alliance.

Daniel Adelson, general manager at Blue Ginger, told the board that the bylaw is driving people to restaurants in surrounding communities with no such restriction.

“You’re actually putting Wellesley at a disadvantage,” he said. “There are restaurants all throughout the town. We should attract people to come to our community, letting them know they can come to the restaurants and enjoy cocktails. You’re actually pushing them away.”

Adelson said Blue Ginger has started a petition to entice the board to change the bylaw.

A change would need only Board of Selectmen approval, and would not be subject to a town-wide or Town Meeting vote, according to Terry Connolly, deputy director of general government services.

Terri Tsagaris, chair of the Board of Selectmen, said the proposal would be taken under advisement, despite the fact that the town only recently enacted a major change to its alcohol service rules.

“This is another big change for us,” she said. “We will consider your proposal.”

Dan Grossman October 03, 2012 at 02:30 PM
In economics, the manipulation of law or regulation to achieve unfair business advantage is called "rent seeking". There is no public purpose in prohibiting adult customers from ordering a glass of wine without an app at, say, Justines, while allowing them to order that same glass of wine at Blue Ginger. I agree that the bylaw is silly: allowing a couple of friends to meet for a drink at the bar is not going to turn Wellesley into Somerville. But its repeal should not be used to obtain competitive advantage.
Bret Silverberg October 03, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Great thought, Dan, and this is likely why Errichetti didn't outright admit to this at the meeting, but the owners do. But would you agree the large restaurant owners have a point? Should they be allowed some advantage now, or is this just how it goes sometimes and all local restauranteurs have to live with it?

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