Restaurants Can Apply to Serve Alcohol at Sunday Brunch; Licensing Board Given Power to Impose Fines

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Restaurants in Watertown will be able to apply to serve alcohol with Sunday brunch after the City Council approved adopting a change to the liquor licensing rules. At the same meeting, Councilors approved giving the Watertown Licensing Board the ability to impose fines and give warnings to holders of liquor licenses.

The change approved at the Feb. 8 Council meeting will allow alcohol to be served on Sundays and certain legal holidays from 10 a.m. to noon.

A couple restaurants recently asked (and about 10 have asked over the past couple years) if they could get approval to serve alcoholic drinks during brunch, said Noelle Gilligan, the head clerk in the Town Clerk’s Office.

“We do have a number of restaurants, especially with Arsenal Yards, that are currently open for brunch,” Gilligan said. “They open at 9, 10 o’clock but they can’t currently serve alcohol (before noon), so they are really looking to do the mimosas.”

Councilors wondered how the change would go into effect. Gilligan said establishments would have to apply for a change of hours on their liquor licenses.

“It is not going to be a blanket approval. They still have to apply to the (State) ABCC [Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission] for a change of hours and apply to the (Watertown) Licensing Board for a change of hours, and get approved,” Gilligan said. “They have to go through the same process as every other change.”

All places in Watertown with licenses to serve alcohol have a common victualler license, which are limited to restaurants, inns and hotels, said City Attorney Mark Reich. There are no bars that only serve alcohol. He added that the rules about selling alcohol at liquor stores are separate and were changed previously.

The Council unanimously approved allowing alcohol to be served from 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays and certain legal holidays.

Fines and Warnings

The Watertown Licensing Board asked for the City Council to give them the power to impose fines and hand out warnings to liquor license holders. Currently, the only disciplinary actions the board can take is to suspend or revoke licenses, said acting Town Manager Tom Tracy.

Councilor John Gannon asked if the power to impose a fine was one given by state law. Reich said that it is a local decision, where cities and towns can allow the Licensing Board to fine establishments. License holders would have the ability to appeal a fine.

Councilor Lisa Feltner asked if the City has decided how much the fines will be. City Council President Mark Sideris said that would have to be determined.

“If approved, (the Licensing Board) will have a discussion on one of their agendas, a discussion of what fees would be for a given violation, and they would have to bring it back to us for approval,” Sideris said.

Gannon asked about how many, if any, communities in Massachusetts allow fines on liquor license holders. Sideris said he will ask the City staff to provide that information when it comes back to the Council.

The item was approved unanimously.

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