The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 3, 2010

Selectmen plan for commercial BYOB review

The Carlisle Selectmen are moving toward adopting a formal Bring Your Own Alcoholic Beverage (BYOB) policy, prompted by a request from Ferns Country Store co-proprietor Larry Bearfield. At the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting on November 23, Chair John Williams carefully delineated the Ferns request into two areas of responsibilty, saying that the decision to allow BYOB activity rests with the Selectmen, while revising the Ferns site plan for the new activity will involve input from several town boards.

“BYOB” vs. license to serve

Town Administrator Tim Goddard later explained that BYOB is more about responsibility for the alcohol consumption, rather than where the product was purchased. An on-site liquor license allows the sale of poured drinks and is more closely regulated by the state than BYOB. He says that those who serve poured drinks must be trained against “over-serving,” because the business has a degree of responsibility if a customer consumes excessive alcohol. In contrast, BYOB involves less liability for the business, since the persons drinking own the alcohol and therefore control their own alcohol consumption.

Selectmen to hold public hearings

“First, the question itself of BYOB,” Williams said. He said that the Board of Selectmen is the town’s licensing authority for alchohol and BYOB falls under their purview. He said that he wanted to make the decision of whether to adopt a BYOB policy, “with the input of as many people who live in Carlisle as possible.” To that end, he proposed that a public hearing might be added to the agenda for the BOS meeting on December 21, continuing on January 11, with a possible vote at the January 25 meeting.

Williams noted that the BYOB question would be connected with the modification of the site plan for Ferns, the first business applicant to request such an allowance. Williams stated that BYOB would result in “intensification of use” at the site and thereby trigger a modification of the site plan. Williams cited increased traffic might be one item requiring further review. To maximize efficiency, he requested that the review of the site plan take place concurrently with the BYOB decision.

Planning Board Chair David Freedman said that the modification to the site plan would involve understanding what effect the intensification of use might have on the town. He thought the 45-day review period could run concurrently with the BOS decision, and noted that some elements of the site plan would not require review, giving storm-water management as an example. He wondered what issues had come up at the state level in reference to the allowance of BYOB in Carlisle.

Selectman Peter Scavongelli, an attorney, noted that under the state regulations there are two types of licenses: “a license to pour and a license to sell.” BYOB is permitted in a business with a license to sell packaged liquor. He said that a “barrier” was needed between functions.

“The state doesn’t want any consumption to occur within a package store,” said Town Administrator Tim Goddard. “But they do permit it in a separate room in a similar structure.” Goddard later told the Mosquito that Town Counsel had shown the Ferns floor plan to William Kelly, general counsel for the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC), who had agreed that the areas for alcohol sales and consumption would be adequately separated.

Defining BYOB usage in town

Selectman Doug Stevenson said that he understood that a town had the rights to make a BYOB policy “as expansive or as limited as we choose.” He asked Goddard if it would be “connected at all to other licenses that we provide?”

“There is no hard and fast rule,” responded Goddard. “In some communities it’s a bylaw; some tie it to a site-plan approval. Communities develop whatever works for them.” Selectman John Gorecki noted that if the decision was to have a bylaw, it could not go into effect until the town approved it. Williams said he preferred a “policy” which Selectman Bill Tice supported, saying “keep it simple.”

“We have a great deal of flexibility of how we do it,” said Williams. “It could be a license that we just renew. Or not. That will be part of what we talk about.”

Stevenson continued to explore the possibilities before the town. “What about public buildings?” he asked. “Non-profits? One-day liquor license? Can you have a separate BYOB policy for those?” Goddard responded that a town could have different licenses for whole categories and added “there is a whole lot of discretion.”

Next steps

Bearfield was on hand to better understand the process ahead of him and respond to board member requests. He said that he expected most of the site plan modification review to be “around safety and security.” He also wondered if the policy would be open or would relate just to Ferns. Williams said that he wanted the policy to go beyond Ferns and cover all current and prospective commercial establishments in town.

Bearfield specifically asked what his next steps should be. Freedman encouraged him to meet with Planning Board Administrator George Mansfield to go over the rules and regulations as any other applicant might do. He said that in his opinion the site plan review would not have to deal with the structure, with the possible exception of the expanded seating. However, he said that one area of review would probably include impact on neighbors, and would involve abutter notification and input.

What about non-profits?

Williams said that while the site plan referred to Ferns, the BYOB policy would be about commercial establishments. He continued to say that he did not want a discussion of non-profits to cloud the issue.

“Even though there may be public safety issues?” asked Bearfield, adding “Drinking is drinking.”

Williams felt it important to proceed slowly and suggested that the Ferns site might serve as a “pilot.”

Stevenson noted, “I’m a little concerned that we’ll end up being all over the map. Should we use policies that other communities use?”

Williams said, “I think that we can look at other policies. What we’re really responding to is what this specific applicant wants to do. And the impacts at this location.”

Stevenson said Selectmen should be a little broader in developing a BYOB policy for the town, although it would be designed “obviously in response to Ferns.” Tice agreed, but thought it was good at this time to restrict the discussion to commercial entities.

Stevenson requested that the Selectmen take time to review information from other towns. Gorecki suggested that it might be better to take testimony from town residents, and then look at what policies might apply here.

BYOB policy scope narrowed to regulate only commercial sites

Williams wanted the discussion to relate to BYOB only “as pertaining to commercial establishments.” The other Selectmen voiced agreement, but Stevenson expressed his concern at not addressing the other entities in town as “we’re essentially saying we are not regulating BYOB at any other entity.”

“Yes, that’s what we are saying,” Williams replied.

Having clarified the point, Stevenson said that he felt it important for the Selectmen to show agreement on the process. He proceeded to cede his objection, and agreed to restrict the policy to cover only commercial establishments at this time. ∆

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