Town Council Mulls Over Adding More Liquor Licenses

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Watertown City Hall

Watertown Town Hall

Watertown Town Hall

The Town Council wants to encourage more mixed-use developments to be built in Watertown with restaurants, but to do so the town would need to increase the number of liquor licenses.

Three subcommittees got together this week to discuss how many licenses should be added and how they would be distributed. The discussion goes back to 2012, when councilors looked at adding 12 new licenses.

Today, Watertown has 33 licenses, including seven that allow service of only beer and wine. All the licenses are accounted for, and the town cannot add any more without getting approval of a special act of the State Legislature.

In 2012, owners of restaurants said they opposed the addition of new licenses because it would devalue the ones they have. The licenses can be sold, and the go for hundreds of thousands of dollars.


This week, councilors looked at whether to lease out new licenses, and restricting them to certain locations – either a street address or a small area of town.

The demand for new licenses is high. The new hotel on Arsenal Street would have a restaurant bar, and there are restaurants planned for projects approved at 202 Arsenal Street and Howard Street. Also, the Arsenal Project may add more restaurants with liquor licenses.

“We want to attract new restaurants, and no one wants to invest in new find dining restaurants without a liquor license,” said Councilor Vincent Piccirilli.

Even 12 new licenses may not be enough, said Councilor Aaron Dushku.

“If you look at the number of places that want licenses, there are already 12,” Dushku said. “If we gave them out to just those places, that wouldn’t be fair.”

Pedro Allacon, owner of La Casa de Pedro, said the town should be careful about adding too many licenses at once.

“For example, Moody Street in Waltham. Everybody opened a restaurant there and now there are restaurants closing,” Allacon said. “And look at Legacy Place (in Dedham). Three years ago they opened a lot of restaurants, and today restaurants are for sale. There are not enough people. to feed the restaurants.”

David Doneski, the attorney advising the town on the issue, said when and if the town submits a special act to the State Legislature it will have to specify the number and how they will be regulated. The communities that have recently got approval for more licenses had a specific number and tied the to a particular address or area of town, he said.

The subcommittees did not make a decision this week, and asked Doneski to bring examples of special acts that were approved by the Legistalture. They will meet again to discuss liquor licenses, at a future meeting. No date has been set.

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