Upholding tradition

Dance lessons aren’t normally a part of town meeting warrants but Lynnfield officials waltzed Special Town Meeting members through some fancy steps Monday before striking a balance between local concerns and a request to expand town-granted alcoholic beverage licenses.

The Board of Selectmen asked members to approve a new all-alcohol liquor license and five bar and restaurant licenses and Town Meeting responded with a compromise.

By not approving the new all-alcohol license request, Special Town Meeting thwarted MarketStreet Whole Foods’ plans to sell more than beer and wine in its local store. But the vote to approve the bar and restaurant licenses sets the stage for new local establishments, including ones looking to open in MarketStreet, to seek a license to offer full liquor fare to their customers.

The compromise vote is an insight into the complicated relationship between a small community like Lynnfield and a shopping mecca like MarketStreet. The shopping destination’s owners are attuned to the incomes many Lynnfield residents possess. But MarketStreet’s boutiques and shopping amenities also draw shoppers from across the North Shore.

The town and the shopping complex enjoy a close relationship that on Monday night had its compatibility tested. Town Administrator James Boudreau told meeting members giving Whole Foods an all-alcohol license translates into more purchasing choices for town residents.

Sound as it may be, that argument ran head-on into town tradition. Three local families own local liquor stores and the owners staked out their customer turfs, in part, by acquiring their licenses from previous owners.

In other words, they did it the old-fashioned way: They bought liquor licenses instead of seeking creation of a new one by the state Legislature. There is nothing wrong with Whole Foods’ request — business, after all, is business — but where people buy their booze has the potential of being as much a tradition in a small town as buying gardening supplies at the local greenhouse and breakfast at the local cafe or diner.

Town Meeting, it should be noted, saw no problem with going to the Legislature to seek new bar and restaurant licenses. Presumably members agreed with Boudreau who said the licenses dovetail with development goals for the town generating additional meal tax revenue.

MarketStreet settled in Lynnfield in part because the town is a good host and a good neighbor. But when it comes to messing with Main Street and businesses that are part of the town’s fabric, a line gets drawn and the hand drawing it is Tradition.

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