Watertown could be getting 15 more liquor licenses for restaurants, and a group of Town Council subcommittees designated where they could be used.
The members of the joint committees of the Rules & Ordinances, Economic Development & Planning, and Public Safety voted to send a proposal to the full Town Council.
The town currently has more than 30 licenses, awarded by the state based on the town’s population. These can be sold and transferred by the holders.
The new ones would be linked to a particular address and business, and would be leased out by the town, so they cannot be transferred or sold.
Five of the new licenses have already been earmarked for:
- the Arsenal on the Charles redevelopment by athenahealth
- a new mixed-use development on Howard Street
- the new hotel approved to go on Arsenal Street
- the Arsenal Center for the Arts, and
- the new complex at 202-204 Arsenal Street
The 10 remaining ones would go to certain areas of town. One goal of having the new licenses is to encourage new developments. So, some areas have been laid out in the Economic Development Plan.
These include Arsenal North (area behind the Watertown Mall and along part of Arsenal Street), the west end of Pleasant Street, South Square (south of the Charles near Galen Street), Union Market (the area along Arsenal Street across from Toyota of Watertown) and Coolidge Hill (the area off Arlington and Grove streets and Coolidge Avenue).
Other areas include the central business districts in town – Watertown Square and Coolidge Square.
Councilor Aaron Dushku asked if the boundaries of the areas should be expended to include nearby business blocks that are not officially part of the central business districts. He pointed to the area along Arsenal and North Beacon streets just outside Watertown Square near the Arsenal Wine & Spirits and Anthony’s Florist. Also, the section of Mt. Auburns Street near Coolidge Square which includes Cass the Florist.
Councilor Susan Falkoff said she thought that would be tinkering too much with the proposal.
“I don’t feel this is appropriate for any possible place to have a restaurant,” said Councilor Susan Falkoff.
While adding more licenses, the councilors did not want to hurt the value of current licenses. One way of doing that is making them non-transferable.
Users will also have to pay a leasing fee, along with the annual licensing fee of $2,700 a year paid by current license holders. The new license holders would also pay an annual “supplemental licensing fee” – which current license holders would not pay.
“This fee will be no more than double the annual fee for the license,” said Councilor Vincent Piccirilli. “So for a seven day all liquor license the annual fee is $2,700 so the most we could charge is $5,400.”
Because they are not transferable, subcommittees also wanted to make sure the new licenses cannot be passed from one restaurant owner to another, so if a restaurant closes or an owner retires the new licenses would return to the town. If the restaurant changes manager, the license will not be returned, said Town Attorney David Doneski.
The subcommittees voted to send the proposal to the full council. If the Town Council approves the proposal, the town will send a special act asking for the new license to the State Legislature for approval.