Swampscott means business on licenses

May 10, 2017

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT Town officials have requested an increase in all-liquor licenses in Swampscott, which they hope will attract new businesses.

“We’re hoping that we can receive a few additional licenses, so we can continue to focus on economic development and bringing additional investments to Swampscott,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.

Town Meeting members on Monday will be asked to authorize the Board of Selectmen to petition the General Court for special legislation allowing the board to issue eight additional all-liquor licenses.

“This article would provide additional business opportunities in our commercial districts, such as Humphrey Street and Vinnin Square, where eating establishments would like to operate with a liquor license,” the warrant article reads. “The 14 existing licenses are currently granted in full.”

The town’s newly updated Master Plan calls for some strategic focus on Humphrey Street, Vinnin Square and the railroad station neighborhood, in terms of revitalizing some of the businesses and restaurant opportunities, Fitzgerald said. He said the increase would bring the right investments to Swampscott, and would bring a robust business quarter in those areas.

Fitzgerald said a few weeks ago, the Board of Selectmen issued the town’s last all-liquor license, which encompasses alcohol, mixed drinks, beer, wine and cordials. The town also offers beer and wine licenses, and a temporary beer and wine license, he said.

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Last week, a restaurant applied for a liquor license that the town doesn’t have, Fitzgerald said. He said the increase would be an opportunity to bring new investments or new opportunities to Swampscott that would be lost to another community that has the licenses available.

He said existing restaurants in town may want to apply for the additional liquor licenses, but the primary focus is on attracting new businesses to Swampscott. In addition, Fitzgerald said as officials look at ways to reduce the town’s overall residential tax rate, finding ways to increase the commercial tax rate will be part of that discussion.

If the article is approved by Town Meeting, Fitzgerald said the town would work with the legislative delegation, and the increase would have to advance to General Court for a vote by the legislature. Over the years, he said the legislature has seen fit to grant communities additional licenses.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said the full liquor licenses are given out by the state based on the population in the town. Swampscott has 14, based on about 14,000 residents. She said the board is asking for an exception because “this is the kind of business that can succeed in Swampscott.” Restaurants would really like to have full liquor licenses, she added.

“The businesses that we want to encourage are interesting eateries,” Dreeben said. “We need the liquor licenses to bring those to town.”

Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.