Friday, November 17, 2006
Ferns liquor license renewed
Larry Bearfield, an owner of Ferns Country Store, was before the Selectmen on November 14 to renew his liquor license and explain why his establishment is still not selling wine and malt liquor a year after their initial license was issued. A plan to provide indoor seating in what is now an unused garage next door has mired the store in a no-man's land between the town Board of Health (BOH) and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The BOH requires rest rooms for such a use, while the state DEP denies rest rooms unless the store provides Title 5 septic, "impossible on that site," according to Bearfield.
"We want to create a meeting place," said Bearfield, reached after the meeting. "The patio has been very popular. But with winter, people have no place to go." The Ferns business plan submitted to town boards and the ABCC last year had included the indoor seating, where customers who purchased alcohol could sit and socialize. The store would not have a pouring license, so there would be no bar or wait service.
Bearfield says his goal is a plan that is "good for business, but also good for the community." He could side-step the rest room problem by reverting to retail-only service, but "that gets rid of the whole concept of an indoor gathering place. This town needs a together place." He believes the DEP's position that the upgrading of the garage is "new construction" is untenable, and he will continue to fight it, even though "the attorneys and engineers are making more on this than we are."
"This is a stumbling block, but we haven't given up," he continues, noting, "Nothing happens over night in this town. We just have to have patience." However, he admits that if the DEP doesn't reconsider, "we're kind of dead in the water."
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie provided the costs of license renewals in other nearby towns, most centering around $1,000. Bearfield noted he had paid $1,500 for the original license, but McKenzie noted this reflected substantial cost of research which would not be repeated in a renewal. John Williams suggested the license be renewed for $1,000 and waved until the business resolves its issues and actually starts selling alcohol. Both measures passed unanimously.
© 2006 The