LYNN —Â Lynn business owners are hoping the License Commission will take a cue from Revere’s License Commission and at least discuss reversing a rollback of liquor license hours from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.
“They followed our lead five years ago when they voted to roll back hours and it didn’t work,” said Brickyard Bar & Grill owner Rocky DiFillipo. “Now let’s follow their lead.”
Revere License Commissioners voted last week to allow liquor license holders to apply to remain open until 2 a.m.
DiFillipo called the decision “another nail in our coffin.”
Porthole Pub owner Robert Gaudet, Fran’s Place owner Jay Collins, Chris Brown from The Sand Bar, John O’Brien from O’Brien’s Pub and local advocate and activist Robert Fioccoprile joined DiFillipo at his Blossom Street restaurant to air frustrations over what they see as an unfair business practice.
Many of the arguments Revere business owners made were arguments Lynn business owners have made for years, Collins added. Economic hardship, the need for a competitive edge, loss of tax revenue for the city are points the Lynn Restaurant Association has been making for five years.
Collins said since the rollback went into effect in 2008 the city has lost 22 bars or restaurants, although he admitted that some needed to go.
“Lynn had about a dozen bad bars but they’re gone,” he said. “What’s left are the survivors.”
“They’re punishing the good businesses,” Gaudet said.
Collins said perhaps the city should also take a cue from Saugus. When it was plagued by troubled bars the town rolled back the hours on the clubs in question or closed them down.
“Lynn did it the easy way and rolled back everyone,” he said.
Gaudet said he feels as if those in the restaurant or bar business are often looked down upon, “like we’re doing something wrong and we’re not ”¦ it’s legal and it’s a tough industry.”
With crime down and the growth of the downtown cultural district, Brown said allowing restaurants and bars to remain open until 2 a.m. only makes sense. The city is attracting young families but those same couples are having to leave the city to find late night nightlife and that doesn’t make sense, said Fioccoprile.
Fioccoprile pulled out a report filled with graphs and charts that showed in 2007, pre-rollback the LRA had a 42 percent profit loss. A downturn in the economy coupled with the change in closing times pushed profit loss up to 52 percent in 2008 and in 2009 it skyrocketed to 67 percent loss.
“People talk about ‘those greedy bar owners,’ but we’re just trying to pay the bills,” DiFillipo said, adding “we’re taxed out of our socks right now.”
Collins said the commercial tax rate has tripled in the last five years.
“You can’t keep raising our taxes and not give us the opportunity to get business.”
DiFillipo said there is a great example of how at least eight Lynnway area businesses could benefit from the crowd exiting the newly established Aquasino at 12:30 a.m. if it weren’t for the fact that Lynn bars and restaurants are required to close at 1 a.m.
“Those people will probably go to Revere now,” he said.
DiFillipo said it also boils down to jobs. He has cut his staff from 16 to eight over the last few years, Collins also said he has lost a number of employees and O’Brien said he is down to family.
“There’s me, my wife’s in the kitchen and my son’s on the bar,” he said.
The group is also concerned that a future casino at Suffolk Downs or Everett could spell even more hardship if they are not allowed to remain open later.
The LRA is hoping the Commission will make an overture to them. DiFillipo said he feels they have stated their case numerous times. Collins said they would even consider capping the number of licenses allowed to remain open until 2 a.m.
Gaudet simply said he doesn’t want the argument to become a political issue because it should be a business decision.
“We deserve a break,” he said. “A level playing field, that’s all we’re looking for.”