Liquor License Home-Rule Petition Gets Council Support

Pending approval by the state legislature, Chelsea will be getting five new on-premises liquor licenses.

The licenses would be granted by the city to hotels, restaurants, or function halls that seat over 100 people. Unlike the current on-premises liquor licenses that can be sold by their holders when not in use, these five licenses would have to be returned to the city if they are not being used by the licensees.

Monday night, the city council voted 9-1 to send the home rule petition requesting the additional liquor licenses to the state legislature.

Several councilors noted that the new licenses would give an opportunity for new entrepreneurs to obtain a liquor license from the city without having to pay up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase a license from a current license holder.

“With our restaurants, our new hotels, there are no licenses available, so it’s almost like a taxi license, if you have it and you don’t use it and you want to sell it, it’s the highest bidder,” said District 8 Councilor Calvin Brown. “This gives the city the opportunity to do the fair thing and give everyone the opportunity to come in and have these licenses.”

Councilor-At-Large Damali Vidot said the new licenses are a result of the growth Chelsea has seen in the past decade reflected in the 2020 federal census.

“Usually, these liquor licenses go for a lot of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Vidot. “But what we are doing in this case is trying to promote equity and inclusion in the city, to allow people who would not otherwise afford to get a liquor license to be able to kind of level the playing field and own a business and offer liquor. But if they sell the liquor license, it comes back to the city, so it’s not transferable.”

District 1 Councilor Todd Taylor said he had some concerns about the home rule petition and cast the lone vote against introducing the home rule petition to the legislature.

“I acknowledge and applaud its intent in trying to bring more people into the business community, I think that is a very worthy endeavor and I’ve always supported that,” said Taylor. “This proposal, though, would create kind of a two-tiered system and I’m worried about two things. I like the fact that these licenses would come back to the city, but these are only five licenses, and you have another 30 that are regular licenses that get sold.”

Taylor said he doesn’t want to negatively impact the people who already hold licenses and paid a lot for the licenses.

“I think there are better ways to encourage more people to get involved in business than this,” said Taylor. “I think we all remember the Great Recession where banks wanted to do much the same type of thing and giving loans to people for their mortgages that really couldn’t afford them. This is how we get into financial trouble.”

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