The Town Council sent a request to the State Legislature to add 15 more liquor licenses to Watertown, and work in the State House continues after a getting past a sticking point.
The request was approved by the Town Council in March, and committees at the Legislature have been carefully looking at the proposal, State Rep. Jonathan Hecht told the Town Council on Tuesday. The town has 34 licenses for restaurants, but the council wants more to encourage more mixed-use development in town.
“The committee knows how hard you worked on the new licensees to increase economic development,” Hecht said. “It looked early on like it would move along quickly.”
A point of contention arose, however, when some members of the committee wanted to make sure the new licenses weren’t flipped, or sold to different owners, Hecht said.
“It was a feeling of the committee that there be a 3 year holding period placed on the initial round of licenses before they can transfer to a second owner,” Hecht said.
Watertown officials opposed this, saying that they want to encourage growth and the licenses could be sitting unused for years.
Councilor Susan Falkoff said she was puzzled by the requirement, since the licenses would be controlled by the Watertown Licensing Board, and could not be sold.
“The licenses are designed to be non-transferable,” Falkoff said.
After a few months, the committee agreed to remove that provision of the bill, so there would not be a 3 year waiting period, Hecht said.
Tuesday the Town Council approved a resolution with new wording but with the same request for 15 licenses. The Legislative Committee required any wording changes be approved by the council.
Once approved in the House of Representatives side, the liquor license request will move to the state Senate, Hecht said.
Of the 15 licenses, one is designated for the Pleasant Street Corridor on the west side of town, and four have been allotted to existing places or approved projects. The four designated spots are:
- a new mixed-use development on Howard Street
- the new Residence Inn by Marriott hotel approved to go on Arsenal Street
- the Arsenal Center for the Arts, and
- the new complex at 202-204 Arsenal Street
The other 10 licenses will be issued in designated geographic areas of town:
- 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)
- Coolidge Hill (the area off Arlington and Grove streets and Coolidge Avenue)
- Two of the licenses can go to Watertown Square and/or Coolidge Square, but neither is guaranteed a license.