January 24 2018

Selectmen Reverse Decision on Revoked Liquor License

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Board of Selectmen reversed its decision to revoke a liquor license of a restaurant that has been closed for a year.


As reported by BNEWS, during its December 18 meeting the board voted 3-2 to revoke the license from the closed Bonefish Grill location due to inactivity. Selectmen Joe Morandi (also board vice chair), Jim Tigges and Mike Runyan voted in favor of the revocation and Chairman Chris Hartling and Selectman Bob Hogan voted against the action.


The license was up for the revocation hearing due to the fact that the restaurant had been closed since January and the town had not received sufficient information on what Bonefish’s parent company, Bloomin Brands, planned to do with it. The board was told by an attorney the company was in talks to transfer it to Darden Restaurants, a large restaurant group, for a Yard House location at the current Chili’s. This raised questions about the legality, under state rules, of transferring a license to a location that already has one in use.


However, it turned out that the vote taken in December could not stand due an issue with how the meeting notification was posted. Town Administrator John Petrin explained the meeting notice was sent to an attorney that had been speaking on behalf of Bloomin Brands at a previous meeting but not the company’s official attorney.


This meant the town had to re-post the meeting and hold a new public hearing on the license revocation.


Since that time some things had changed, Petrin told the board this week. Most significantly Bloomin Brands now says it is in talks with the Wilder Company, owner of Wayside plaza, about transferring the license to a new restaurant in the same location as Bonefish. During a November meeting it was stated that the Wilder Company did not wish to pursue a restaurant on that site, a claim that Wilder Company contested, and it seems that in the intervening month discussion had opened about a possible transfer of the license to an entity at the same location.


Petrin said that he also spoke to representatives from the state’s Alcohol Beverages Control Commission to confirm that the license could not be transferred to a location that already has a liquor license.


“they are working on keeping it at the site but there’s no guarantee,” he said. “They just know they can’t look to transfer it to a site that already has a license.”


With this new information Petrin recommended the board vote to renew the license but to also vote on setting a time limit on how long the town is willing to wait until it sees action. He suggested they give the company six months to transfer the license and if by July 1 it had failed to do so, they would be brought back in for a possible license revocation.


Members of the board seemed open to this suggestion given the updated situation.


“I’m glad more information has come forward and I’m glad we have everyone engaged, the business owner and the property owner,” Hartling said.


Runyan, who had voted to revoke the license, said the possible arrangement between the business and the Wilder Company was encouraging.


“I feel that an emphasis is going to be made to keep that license somewhere on that site, its an important piece of the puzzle,” He said. “It solves much of my angst and now I could support the six months.”


In the end the board voted 5-0-0 to renew the license and to place the six month time limit on the license transfer.


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