Council Has Mixed Views on Requesting More Liquor License, Most Eyed by Arsenal Yards


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.

8 thoughts on “Council Has Mixed Views on Requesting More Liquor License, Most Eyed by Arsenal Yards

  1. The city needs to do a better job of promoting the revitalization of existing properties in town, especially in the East End. I’d like to see them put some pressure on the owners of neglected/unoccupied properties to sell and/or improve them. There are a number of vacant former factories, crumbling homes and empty lots that are in terrible disrepair and are huge eyesores in the community. Let’s get the East End popping off with new life. Lure craft brewery upstarts, independent coffee shops and other locally-owned independent retailers to our commercial zones. Eventually, Arsenal Yards won’t seem like such a “threat” to the rest of the town.

  2. I am a long time East End resident and when choosing a restaurant, a restaurant in Watertown is always my first choice. What is the status of BYOB licensing in the town? As I recall, it did pass a few years ago? It is a nice feature to bring your own choice, especially if restaurants do not always have the wine that you prefer.

    • The Council approved the bring your own bottle licenses. I don’t think they have been very popular with restaurants. I don’t know of any that has a liquor license which also has a BYOB license.

  3. Why is the rationing of liquor licenses for restaurants even an issue in 2019? And BYOB is a relic of 1970’s and before –or so I remember it from college days in Cambridge back then. Come on. If we want Davis Sq and Kendall Sq people to to migrate to Watertown (following the bio-spaces being built and pioneered by Athena), how about sidewalk tables and letting restaurants serve a glass of wine –whether around the Arsenal or anywhere else? What’s the big deal?

    • As if the situation around here hasn’t gotten bad enough with all the developments
      going up, the last thing this town needs is even more people migrating from Davis and
      Kendall Sq.

      • Yeah, the last thing we need in Watertown are any more of the those damn tree hugging, Bernie loving, handlebar mustache wearing, fix gear riding, succulent growing, PBR drinking, Arcade Fire listening hipsters!

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