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How Many Liquor Licenses Is Too Many? Select Board Considers.

The Select Board Monday night awarded a wine and malt beverage license to Varsha Patel, manager of record at the Town Pantry market at 85 Wilmington Rd., but not without some discussion about how many such markets were appropriate in a town like Burlington.  “I have to ask the question, is this that slippery slope to every convenience store in town asking for a license?” Asked Select Board Member Nick Priest. “Where do we draw whatever line we choose to draw? And does that line – I don’t want to say matter, but how permanent is it, with the flexibility and the permanence of our seats over time?”  Burlington, like other towns and cities in Massachusetts, has a limited number of liquor licenses allotted to it by the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission; the number of licenses allocated is based on the population of that town. Town Pantry received the last Wine and Malt Beverage package store license available in Massachusetts; No other such license could be awarded unless an existing package store closes or gives up its license, or unless the state allots more licenses to Burlington.  “Every time we wind up in ‘This is the last one,’ the state turns around and doles out a bunch of licenses to us, and I’m like, ‘Great, now we have more licenses to deal with,’” Priest said.  “One of the reasons I was in favor of it is because it is our last one to give away,” said Select Board Member Joe Morandi. “In the meantime, it’s our job to discuss, okay, what are the guidelines if we do get more?” Because what you’re feeling I think is a feeling we all have, like how many of these do we have to have in town?”  “I don’t think we’re at the point where we’re saturated with them yet,” said Select Board Member Mike Espejo. “But this is the last one we have, and if it’ll help their business thrive, then I’ll be for it, so I’m for this one.”  Town resident Gene Lane spoke in favor of Town Pantry, saying he is a patron at the convenience store. “I’ve known the Patel family for a while now, they’re very reputable people,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of people coming in there for beer and wine in numerous locations. I think it would be an ideal place to sell that because there’s plenty of parking, they’re not in a busy area, and I just think it would be an ideal place to have a beer and wine facility.”  The availability of liquor licenses for restaurant and bars has been in the news in recent years as Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and members of the Boston City Council have pushed the legislature to create more licenses for the state’s largest city, saying some neighborhoods are bursting with bars and restaurants serving drinks, while others lack a single place to go out for a cocktail.