Watertown BYOB Program Hits Bump on Road to Approval

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Tuesday night, the full Town Council got its first taste of the bring your own bottle – BYOB – proposal for Watertown, but it will still be some time before the ordinance allowing the program.

The proposal was hashed out over three joint meetings of the Rules and Ordinances, Economic Development and Public Safety subcommittees. The BYOB licenses could go to restaurants that do not already have a liquor license, and only establishments featuring full wait service would be eligible.

One restaurant in particular, Royal, is anxious to get a license. The recently opened eatery on Main and Lexington streets does not have a liquor license and the owners say that is hurting them.

“I am about to lose my restaurant,” said Royal owner and chef Rachid Kourda. “I am asking to have BYOB in Watertown and hope you are going to pass BYOB.”

Resident and Royal fan Virginia Rice said BYOBs would help bring more restaurants to town.

“A growing number of surrounding communities allow BYOB, and in the case of Cambridge they have unlimited liquor licenses,” Rice said. “This is not disadvantaging the restaurants with existing liquor license, they can still make a profit on alcohol. It really s just gives (those without liquor licenses) a fighting chance at survival.”

The Bump in the Road

The Town Council heard the report from the subcommittees, but they could not take action on the proposal Tuesday night.

When they heard this news, the owners of Royal left the Council Chamber visibly upset.

Town Attorney Mark Reich said that the item had not been scheduled appropriately for a vote, and will likely need two more meetings before it can be approved.

The item came under the Committee Reports section of the agenda, not the public hearings section. Because it is an ordinance, the BYOB proposal would need to have a first and second readings, with the vote at the second meeting.

“The problem is (the ordinance) has not been published (in a local paper) before this meeting,” Reich said.

The standard way to pass an ordinance is to have a first reading, and it must be published at least five days prior to the meeting, Reich said. Then the Council can hold a public hearing and hold a vote at the second meeting.

The Town Council does not have any more meetings scheduled in July, and has only one scheduled for August, on the 11th.

The Town Council can hold the first reading, have the public hearing and take a vote all in one meeting, Reich said, but it must be an emergency situation.

See other Watertown News stories on BYOB:

Subcommittees to Ask Council to Adopt BYOB in Watertown

Committee Trying to Iron Out Details to Allow BYOB in Watertown

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