December 19 2019

Beer Works Get Another Extension to Find Buyer for Liquor License

By: Rich Hosford

Once again the owner of the never-materialized Burlington Beer Works has been given more time to find an entity for a transfer of its liquor license. 


As reported on BNEWS, last year the Board of Selectmen voted to revoke the liquor license for Slesar Bros. Brewing Company due to a long delay starting work on the Burlington Beer Works project in the Crossroads Plaza at 34 Cambridge Street. However, in January of this year the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Compliance Commission (ABCC) said in a decision following a hearing that the town did not give the licensee sufficient time to either start operating its business or to attempt to transfer it to another entity. According to ABCC regulations the license authority, in the case the selectmen, must give six months warning. 


In March of this year the board opened a public hearing for a possible revocation of the license and continued to October where the hearing was once again continued until this past Monday with words of warning from the board that their patience was growing thin. 


During the latest hearing attorney Paul Sporn, representing Slesar Bros., argued that the market conditions in the Crossroads Plaza are still not favorable for a transfer. 


“Economic conditions we discussed previously are still the status quo at 34 Cambridge Street,” he said, referring to his argument that the recent big changes in the plaza changed the situation from when the restaurant was first planned. He also argued that pressure from the number of new restaurants going in at the Burlington Mall is making it harder for them to find a buyer for the Crossroads site. 


Sporn said the license remains with a broker who, he said, remains optimistic they could find an entity to purchase it in the first quarter of next year. He added that a revocation of the license, which his client initially paid $195,000 for, would lead to a repeal in court and cost both parties money. 


“My client is asking for a renewal and to continue until March 23 with hopes that between now and then there will be a change and there will be a buyer,” he said. “And if it happens sooner than that we will update you.”


Selectman Jim Tigges asked what the price was when the license was put up for auction but got not takers as Sporn had stated during the last meeting. The attorney said it had a minimum bid of $75, a price far below what his client paid for it. 


Selectman Bob Hogan said he was sympathetic to the idea that the Burlington Mall and its high number of licenses, and with more likely on the way, is a factor in this case but that he would like to see some progress. 


“I hear what you’re saying about the shadow that the mall and all of its licenses,” he said. “But I’d hope that we’d be able to resolve this issue because it is like a sore we keep scratching and rubbing off.”


Selectman Nick Priest asked what would happen if March 23 arrives and there still isn’t a sale or a promise of one in the works. 


“Fair question,” Sporn said. “All we can say is we are hopeful that is not the case and we are doing all that we can to ensure that is not the case. I would like to be able to come to board in March with a buyer in hand or concrete evidence that there are buyers we are working with.”


In the end the board voted 5-0-0 to approve the continuation of the hearing.


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