The Board of Selectmen discussed the possibility of reducing the number of seats per restaurant necessary to attain a liquor license, as well as other license changes, at a Monday meeting.
A restaurant in Wellesley must have 100 or more seats to be eligible for a liquor license. Deputy Chief William Brooks explained to the board that to reduce this number, the town would have to make a special request to the state, as it did in 1984 – and again in 2006 – to allow for club licenses.
“This is the town saying to the legislature it would like to do something a little differently,” he said.
Wellesley has 18 active liquor licenses, Brooks said. The town cannot exceed 29 licenses, according to state regulations. There is no difference in requirements between beer and wine licenses and all alcohol licenses. The town of Wellesley requires that patrons order food if they order alcoholic beverages at all of its liquor-licensed restaurants.
The board reviewed the policies as part of a greater focus to revive Wellesley Square and other waning business areas of town.
Selectman Katherine Babson said if the board decides to go forward with changes, she would like to see an article on the warrant for Special Town Meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14.
“We would like to be able to give [town business merchants] some idea of whether the board is interested in pursuing this,” Babson said.
Babson posed the question of whether the board would want to ask the legislature for no minimum seat requirement. Were this the case, the Board of Selectmen would decide to grant a liquor license regardless of an establishment’s seating.
“To me the issue is how much discretion do we want to give a board of selectmen,” she said. “It’s not just us, it’s future boards of selectmen.”
Selectman Owen Dugan said, due to the proximity of the High School and Middle School to the downtown area, he foresees issues with children having new access to alcohol at restaurants downtown.
“On Wednesday afternoons…the students flood Linden Street,” Dugan said, referring to monthly early-release days. “My concern about beer and wine in a setup like that, how can we be assured that that’s not going to get into the hands of students?”
Hans Larsen, executive director of general government, reminded Dugan that alcohol is already available at several town restaurants in both the Wellesley Square and Linden Square sections.
Dugan said he would tread lightly when it comes to increasing that availability.
“I understand we have waiters, waitresses and bartenders that have all been trained, but it just takes one to cross the path to create some real problems,” he said.