The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ferns still awaits word on BYOB

“Pizza and a beer, anyone?” That’s a question that Ferns Country Store proprietor Larry Bearfield and the 100 adults who signed a petition supporting BYOB (“Bring Your Own Booze”) at the establishment would like to have answered in the affirmative. Ferns has a liquor license and began selling wine and beer products at the store almost one year ago, but the license is for carry-out sales only.

Bearfield is seeking permission for patrons to bring their own beer and wine to drink while dining at the site. He says that he is seeking BYOB for indoor seating only at present, but may later ask to expand to the outdoor seating “depending on what the community wants.” He would limit the BYOB hours to from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays, perhaps longer on weekends.

When asked if the Selectmen would address the BYOB issue on its agenda soon, Town Administrator Tim Goddard said that he expects it will be “in the not-too-distant future.” Town Counsel has recently responded to the Selectmen’s query for an opinion on the issue. Selectmen Chair John Williams said he will review the information and comment on it at the board’s next meeting on November 9.

Bearfield first brought up the BYOB idea to the Selectmen at their meeting on June 8 when the board approved the request for indoor seating at the store. Williams said at the time that the BYOB request would require further discussion and public input. Since June, the town administrator and Ferns representatives have spent time looking into the legality of that BYOB option in Carlisle.

Williams, contacted recently, said that his understanding was that the state would require “a modification of the premises” of a package store that sold liquor, such as Ferns, before it could allow BYOB service in an eat-in space. Williams was not able to identify specifics of that modification and admitted some frustration that no one at the state level had defined it clearly. The Selectman said that he knew that Bearfield was investigating the issue. Williams added that if the BYOB is determined to be allowable, then he felt that a site review process would follow with a public hearing.

In a conversation with the Mosquito, Bearfield responded that representatives of the Alcohol and Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) had told him that the state left specific regulation of alcohol up to local communities. Bearfield is calling for the Selectmen to formalize a new town policy on BYOB.

“Let’s get the process underway,” said Bearfield. He did not feel that a completely new site plan review was necessary, however. He objected to calling the BYOB option a “change of use.” He gave the example that if a customer bought pizza and could eat it in the store, then they should be able to consume other products, such as alcoholic beverages, that they had bought. Bearfield referred to the Union Hall Coffeehouse as another example of BYOB, one with significantly more seating than Ferns. The non-profit coffeehouse is held roughly once a month in Union Hall at the First Religious Society.

Carlisle Town Building Inspector John Luther feels that enabling a BYOB option for patrons at Ferns did constitute a “change of use” at a non-residential site. For that reason, he called it a zoning board issue and not a building code issue. One of the differences between BYOB at Ferns and at other organizations in town is one of frequency, Luther said. BYOB at Ferns could mean that patrons could drink alcohol daily, versus the annual consumption of a glass of champagne at charity or holiday events.

When asked about the safety concerns of residents about the Ferns location on the town rotary, Bearfield noted that Ferns had already gone through extensive public safety review by all relevant town organizations. He added that he had eliminated two parking spaces in front of the establishment closest to the rotary. He encouraged patrons concerned about street traffic to use the parking in the back of the building, and noted that he had added a back door to facilitate entrance to the premises there. ∆

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