The Town Council voted to send a request to the State Legislature to allow Watertown to have 15 more liquor licenses, most of which would be taken up by tenants in the Arsenal Yards development. But the vote was not unanimous.
The request for the additional licenses came from the developers of the retail/residential/office project at the former Arsenal Mall.
Town Council President Mark Sideris said the situation is not unlike the project at Assembly Row in Somerville.
“The project became much more than they thought it would be,” Sideris said. “It continues to evolve.”
Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said she was bothered by the concentration of liquor licenses.
“I have a hard time seeing why we need that many in one area,” Falkoff said.
Councilor Anthony Donato, who chairs the subcommittee which first heard the request and put forward the recommendation, said the licenses would not be for places where alcohol is the focus.
“They majority are smaller restaurants. None will be bars,” Donato said. “We want to make sure the process is fair.”
Councilor Ken Woodland noted that the licenses would not be designated for Arsenal Yards, but would be available for businesses in the Regional Mixed Use District (RMUD), which also includes parts of Arsenal Street, such as the Watertown Mall, and other nearby streets.
The Town already got 15 additional licenses approved by the Legislature in 2016, many of which were used, but 6 remain. Donato said rather than just requesting nine more to meet the Arsenal Yards request, they requested 15 more so more remain for other businesses looking for a license.
Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she is concerned about the Arsenal Yards becoming an isolated entity, and that it will negatively impact existing businesses in Watertown.
“When the zoning for Arsenal Yards was proposed I said that Arsenal Yards, and also Athenahealth, would be come a city within a city,” Kounelis said. “They would entice people on the property, employees and residents, and have all the amenities.”
She worries the new development will take business away from others in Town.
“I don’t want want established business owners to feel pressure and consider closing their doors,” Kounelis said.
Donato said he too does not want to see businesses closing.
The Council voted 7-2 to make the request to the Legislature for more liquor licenses. Kounelis and Falkoff voted against the motion.