October 27 2019

State House Hearing on Mall Liquor Licences Never Materialized

By: Rich Hosford

It was a hearing that never happened. 

As reported in BNEWS, in July the Board of Selectmen voted 5-0-0 to send a letter to the Joint Committee on Professional Licensure in the State House urging members to reject a request for 9 additional liquor licenses for the Burlington Mall that was approved by Town Meeting last fall. They also sought to meet with the committee to provide testimony on their stance. 

They argued that nine additional licenses was too many for a single property, especially one that already has 10 existing license, some of which are not currently in use. They further argued that because there are 20 other licenses in the area surrounding the mall the additional licenses would create a situation where viable competition for existing restaurants would be untenable. 

The move sparked some controversy over who has the final say on the issue of liquor licenses - the Board of Selectmen or Town Meeting? Town Moderator Bill Beyer, who argued that the legislative body had purview in this case, said the move by the selectmen was an overreach of authority. 

“The Board of Selectmen is an executive group and Town Meeting is legislative,” he said at the time. “The role of an executive branch is to implement what Town Meeting tells it to implement. They are trying to replace Town Meeting’s judgement with their own. That is not their job, their job is to administer the will of Town Meeting.”


However, the issued died on its own. A tentative hearing at the State House scheduled for late September never formalized. 

Selectman Bob Hogan, who had advocated for the hearing in opposition of the licenses, said the board decided to cancel after getting feedback that the State Legislature was unlikely to side with them. 

“The Board felt we didn’t have the votes at the State House and we didn’t feel it was necessary to take the argument further,” he said. “We felt we made a legitimate argument but the state felt like they were going in another direction.” 

Hogan said he still has concerns about the number of liquor licenses at the mall and Middlesex Turnpike area. He pointed to the closing of Del Frisco’s last weekend as evidence that restaurants are struggling to compete. 


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