Council Rejects Developer’s Request for Relief on Liquor License Fees

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The Town Council rejected a request from the developers of Arsenal Yards to give discounted liquor licenses for establishments that have a liquor license, but will not open until the next year.

The proposal called for reducing the annual fee for the liquor licenses from $8,100 to $2,700 for businesses that need to get a license but are not ready to open because their space is still under construction.

The Council received the request at the same time that Boylston Properties sought to have the town add more liquor licenses to accommodate the new tenants at the former Arsenal Mall. The Council has requested 15 more special licenses from the Legislature.

The rule would only apply to special liquor licenses approved by the State Legislature to encourage economic development in Watertown. These licenses would be leased to new restaurants and other business who pay the annual fee. It would apply to traditional liquor licenses that are purchased by establishments. Holders of traditional liquor licenses also pay an annual fee of $2,700 a year in addition to the purchase price, which can be tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Councilor Susan Falkoff was not convinced that paying the full fee would be a financial hardship.

“To pay $5,400 on a $1 million renovation seems like a very small percentage of the total cost,” Falkoff said.

Councilor Anthony Donato said that he did not think it would be fair to holders of the traditional liquor licenses.

“I went back to look at the minutes when we got the additional liquor licenses and it was interesting to see that Councilors wanted to make sure it was done in a way that was fair to traditional liquor licenses,” Donato said.

Councilor Kenneth Woodland said that other restaurants could be in similar situations but would not get the relief.

“Current license holders could want to shut for six months and not pay fees because the situation is similar to Arsenal Yards,” Woodland said.

Councilor Angeline Kounelis said this is not the first time that the Council has been asked to change the rules, zoning requirements or other things by a developer or property owner.

“We should not bend the rules for the needs of a particular developer,” Kounelis said.

The proposal failed with no Councilors supporting the proposal.

3 thoughts on “Council Rejects Developer’s Request for Relief on Liquor License Fees

  1. I agree 100% with the Town Council’s decision! The current fees are more than reasonable and the idea that imposing them may hinder further economic development is preposterous …..just look around the Town now.

  2. It is a joke to make the argument that these fees are a hardship to a development this size and the chain establishments that will be tenants there. But millionaires always think that anything they are asked to pay is a hardship.

    I’d be in favor of giving a break to small locally owned establishments, but see no reason to give fat cats preferential treatment.

  3. I’m not opposed to the issuance of any new liquor licenses, or allowing more establishments to serve alcohol, but I am opposed to granting the developers of Arsenal Yards (and any prospective/future tenants), any special considerations or treatment. It’s bad enough that the lions share of these licenses are going to Arsenal Yards to begin with.
    With that in mind… I applaud the Town Councils decision in this matter.

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