Watertown Issues First BYOB License, Others Applying for New Liquor Licenses

Watertown now allows restaurants to apply for a bring-your-own alcohol license and the Licensing Board recently issued the first one. Farmer’s Market Kitchen at 222 Arsenal St. had its application for a BYOB license approved, Town Clerk John Flynn told the Town Council at his budget hearing on Saturday. That means diners can bring in their own beer or wine had have it while they eat at the restaurant. The Town Council approved the concept in September 2015 and it took effect April 1.

Watertown BYOB Program Hits Bump on Road to Approval

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.

Subcommittees to Ask Council to Adopt BYOB in Watertown

The Town Council will consider whether to allow restaurants to offer a “bring your own bottle” option to diners after joint subcommittees voted to recommend a set of rules for BYOB licenses. 

The licenses would be available to restaurants that do not have a liquor license. Also, the Joint Rules & Ordinances, Economic Development, and Public Safety committees recommended that the restaurants must be full service, which means they have a “full wait staff, sit down and eat-in dining services for the vast majority of patrons,” according to the recommended ordinance. A BYOB license could cost $1,000 a year, and would be issued by the town’s Licensing Board. They would to be available to a restaurant which has had a suspended or revoked liquor license. The restaurants must also carry alcohol liability insurance.

Committee Trying to Iron Out Details to Allow BYOB in Watertown

Watertown restaurants may be allowed to have bring-your-own alcohol, but first the details must be settled by a joint group of Town Council subcommittees. At a joint meeting of the Rules & Ordinances, Public Safety, and Planning subcommittees on Thursday, steps were taken toward crafting the new ordinance which would allow BYOB. The town has a limited number of liquor licenses – 34 – and it has requested 15 more from the state through a special home rule petition to the State Legislature. Some of these licenses have been earmarked for approved projects, and others have been limited to the business districts in town. Those restaurants falling outside those areas cannot apply for one of the new licenses.

Liquor License Debate Gets Murkier for Town Council

Three Town Council subcommittees met last week to shore up the details of the town’s request to the State Legislature for more liquor licenses, but by the end of the meeting Councilors had not made a decision. At a previous meeting, the members of the Rules & Ordinances, Economic Development & Planning, and Public Safety subcommittees, discussed asking for 15 new licenses. Five would go to approved projects or existing locations. The other 10 would be divvied up among different areas of town. Last week, however, the group was not sure how to handle the forthcoming requests for liquor licenses from the Arsenal Project (formerly Arsenal Mall) for new restaurants.

Council Looking at Allowing BYOB at Watertown Restaurants

While Watertown officials look at adding more liquor licenses, they will also consider whether restaurants can have bring your own alcohol licenses. Councilor Aaron Dushku, who sits on one of the three subcommittees looking at liquor licenses, said he also wants to consider allowing people to bring their own wine or beer to enjoy with their meal. One of the reasons for having BYOB is so people can have wine and avoid the markup on the wine, Dushku said. “Residents who want to enjoy a fine wine, they can pay the value of the wine which they perceive the price to be,” Dushku said. Restaurants would still be able to charge a corkage fee.