Waltham business owners and residents gave a resounding ‘no’ last night to the proposal to issue additional liquor licenses in the city.
In total, 76 people at last night’s Waltham City Council/License Commission hearing stood in opposition of the proposal, while only one favored it.
The public input hearing, which started at 7 p.m., ran for 40 minutes with business owners and residents soundly opposing the draft proposal to issue 15 additional licenses in a bid to draw more restaurants to certain locations the city is aiming to develop.
For full background on the proposal, read our prior story.
Concerns of Business Owners/Residents
- “The only thing we are opposed to is the way [restaurants] … would acquire our licenses,” said Adam Rubin, who owns Bison County on Moody Street.
- “15 new licenses would basically take my license and make it worthless,” Rubin said.
- Instead, Rubin suggested new restaurants purchase existing licenses from restaurants that are not doing well.
- Additional licenses would saturate the market with large chain restaurants, said Bill Honeycutt, the owner of John Brewer’s Tavern on Main Street.
- Honeycutt also said it’s unfair that a new business would only have to rent a license from the city whereas he had to pay $198,000.
- John Grasso, a Sudbury resident who owns the Halfway Café chain, said his experience with a similar proposal in Dedham, indicates would could happen if Waltham passed its proposal. Grasso said that after more liquor licenses were issued to accomodate the Legacy Place shopping complex, sales at his location dropped from 1.8 million to 1.35 million.
- “You can expect your local restaurants … their sales will be off for a six month period,” Grasso said, noting the drop would be up to 20 percent “If this goes through, your going to hurt a lot of these little guys.”
- Lou Giovanetti, who plans to open a pizzeria on Moody Street this summer, said that business owners should have a chance to organize and collectively testify on how many licenses should be issued. “One hour is not enough time,” he said.
- Shopper’s Café owner Paul LaCava spoke several times to voice his concerns, including that more licenses would hurt businesses on Moody Street. He also said that with the legalization of casino gambling in Massachusetts, casinos could also impact local businesses. “I am not afraid of competition. I am afraid of unfair competition and an oversatureated market,” LaCava said.
- Nicole Franchi, a Waltham resident who said she recently held an event at the Elephant Walk, said she was concerned that chain restaurants would hurt Waltham’s charm. im really concerned that oversautrating this market, were really going to ruin the character,” she said.
- Only one person spoke in favor of the proposal, a representative of the proposed developments at the former Polaroid site. He said restaurants are crucial to new developments, but acknowledged his was in the minority.
Future of Proposal
- With the first hearing complete, if the city decides to draft legislation for new licenses, another hearing will be held.