Foodie's Market finally got its liquor license.
- Written by Administrator
Selectmen Chairman Andre Martecchini and Selectman Jon Witten supported the liquor license. Selectman Betsy Sullivan again recused herself on the issue as her employer, a bank, has had past financial dealings with Leon.
Foodie's Market is taking over the empty A&P/Grand Union building on Depot Street, which has been vacant for nearly four years. It should open by September. Renovations are currently underway.
Witten voted against the beer and wine license during the first public hearing on May 14, saying that Leon had not clearly demonstrated to him that there was a need for another alcohol vendor in Hall's Corner. As the town board that issues liquor licenses, selectmen must balance the public need for more alcohol vendors against "the common good." They must also decide whether an area is adequately served by enough alcohol sellers.
Witten had also based his earlier rejection on the fact the Foodie's lease was not contingent upon having a liquor license. In June, the town was notified that Leon and the store's landlord, Bill Kaull of Mellon Bank, had renegotiated Foodie's lease to make it contingent upon a liquor license.
Witten said Monday that he did not believe Hall's Corner needed another outlet that sold alcohol. However, he noted that now there was a link between Foodie's lease being contingent on a liquor license and the public's demonstrated need for revitalizing the A&P Plaza with a new grocery store. Because of this link, Witten felt satisfied that selectmen have met the "public need" requirements of the state law for issuing liquor licenses.
Martecchini did not comment at the meeting because he did not change his position from when he supported the license application in May.
Many residents packed the town hall basement meeting room to offer their opinions on Foodie's and the liquor license.
Gail McCormick of Bay Road said she and some other residents made a trip to Boston's South End to visit Leon's original store, Foodie's Urban Market.
"It's a fabulous market," said McCormick. "We're blessed to get it. It will revitalize that whole area. I've missed having a shopping area. The people need one. It's as simple as that."
Jeanne Clark of Surplus Street told selectmen, "When the dreadful Grand Union closed, we lost a town center, a place for bake sales and for people to get their papers signed."
"There is a very serious need for this store in town," said Clark.
Anne Antonellis, president of the Duxbury Business Association, and a former co-chair of the Duxbury Economic Development Committee that worked for two years to bring a grocery store back to Duxbury, rejected previous arguments from local liquor store owners who decried another a liquor venue saying it would hurt their businesses.
"I believe that competition is healthy," said Antonellis, pointing out that competition is rampant in Hall's Corner as it currently has four dry cleaners, four hair salons, three real estate offices, three banks, two ice cream stores, four lawyers, two florists, five shops and two convenience stores.
"All our businesses will thrive if the town is supportive of Foodie's," said Antonellis.
Megan Greenstein of Washington Street also worked on the Duxbury Economic Development Committee to try to fill the void left by the closure of the A&P/Grand Union. She noted that two years ago over 1,000 people signed a petition saying they wanted a grocery store in Duxbury and that having one with a liquor license would not hurt other liquor dealers.
"I support all businesses in Duxbury but the liquor stores, they're missing the point," said Greenstein. "They're losing so much more business now because we have to go to Kingston for groceries and while we're there, we buy our liquor."
Video Scene owner Ken Driscoll, whose store is in the A&P Plaza, said his business has decreased since the A&P/Grand Union left. When customers shopped at other supermarkets, they also rented their videos nearby.
"We have been staying in Duxbury with the hopes of a market coming back," said Driscoll. "People want this market. It's important. When I get a Blockbuster video in my drop box it's like a knife in my heart. It's important for us to support Victor. Whatever we can do to help him be successful will help all of us."
Driscoll said he had 83 names on a petition so far in support of Foodie's.
Landlord Bill Kaull said Leon needed the license to make a go of the store in that location. He said that over the past four years he had talked to every grocer in the region and had "walked dozens of people through that store," but because supermarkets are all huge now, no one wanted a 20,000 square foot store. He said he had only two "bona fide offers" and both were contingent upon having a liquor license. Kaull said earlier versions of Leon's lease contained the liquor license contingency.
Liquor licenses are granted by the state to towns based on population. Duxbury is allowed a total of 28 of the four different types of liquor licenses, which include wine and malt and all alcohol, on and off premises. Fifteen establishments hold liquor licenses in town. Of the five wine and malt package store licenses allowed, there are still two available.
Leon said that the availability of a liquor license was "always assumed by everybody who looked at that location."
"This is the biggest risk I've ever taken in my life," said Leon. "I sincerely believe I will not put anybody out of business. I plan to be a good corporate citizen. I believe I need the license. If I didn't, I would have left a long time ago."
Attorney Louis Cassis represented three of Duxbury's liquor stores: Duxbury Wine and Spirits, the Wine Depot and Bennett's General Store. He reiterated earlier arguments that there was no public need for another seller of alcohol in Hall's Corner because there was an adequate number of package stores already in the area.
Under the state statute, he felt selectmen should deny Foodie's license on this basis. Also, he said Duxbury was "over licensed" because it had more liquor licenses than allowed under the state formula. Cassis argued that Foodie's had no experience selling alcohol because the Boston store did not offer it. He worried that minors would have more access to liquor at Foodie's than they would at a package store. He said he thought the selectmen were being "threatened" by Foodie's with the lease being contingent on a liquor license.