License Commission Plans Thursday Hearing on BYOB Permits

The final step in permitting smaller downtown businesses and cultural organizations to allow patrons to “carry-in” beer and wine is before Haverhill license commissioners Thursday night.

Commissioners will have a public hearing on “bring your own bottle” (BYOB) regulations. Proposed rules would allow carry-in licenses to be issued only to those businesses holding a common victualler license, which governs cooking, preparing and serving food; having 30 or fewer seats; and operating either downtown or associated with a non-profit arts and cultural organization. The city began considering the special class of license after Shawna Kelley of Artmosphere, formerly the Paint and Wine Lounge, complained about the high cost of standard liquor licenses and related expenses.

“I need to change my business mode to survive in Haverhill,” Kelley wrote in a letter to commissioners. She said the liquor license cost is only part of the problem, explaining liability insurance and a state requirement that liquor be purchased from distributors add to her expenses. “License and purchasing from the wholesaler is actually more money than I make selling alcohol,” Kelley said.

While the Haverhill License Commission began the process of drafting regulations an invited input from businesses, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. ruled the plan had to be first approved by city councilors. That approval came in March, followed a week later by Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s approval. Commissioners will now receive additional public comments and set license fees.

License Commission Likely to Approve ‘Public Comment period’

Atorney Joseph C. Edwards, chairman, Haverhill License Commission.

Attorney Joseph C. Edwards, chairman, Haverhill License Commission.

A proposal by Chairman Joseph C. Edwards to encourage public comment at commission meetings is also set for a vote Thursday.

“At the conclusion of our regular business at the license commission, we should have time available to the public who want to come in and tell about their ideas, their thoughts about what is happening in the city as it concerns anything related to the license commission,” Edwards said.

Edwards said public comment periods have been standard agenda items on other government boards where he has served. The plan has already received endorsements from Commissioners Gerald A. Sewell and Tim Coco.

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