Licensing Fracas Ends with a Bang

By Seth Daniel

City Councillors and leaders agreed tacitly to move beyond the heated debate and, at times, name calling that has resulted from a close vote to re-appoint License Commissioner Ken Umemba and a desire by some councillors to make wholesale changes in the makeup of that board.

A letter from former License Commissioner Bruce Black, which was quoted in last week’s Record, was read into the record at Monday’s meeting, and numerous speakers got up to support changes on the Board.

That was followed by a lengthy letter read by Councillor Roy Avellaneda which defended his stance on several matters regarding his proposals to change up the Commission. Avellaneda led the charge for change and was on the Board until being elected to Council last fall. In Black’s letter, he was accused of impropriety for putting a building on the market (Las Palmas Restaurant) for which he had just voted to take the license of.

Avellaneda has said the owner came to him afterwards, and he listed the property, taking if off his real estate listings after re-thinking the wisdom and perception of the listing.

In his letter, he said he was thoroughly offended.

“The reason why the Las Palmas property was listed so quickly is because Mrs. Rivera had been forced to close not due to the revocation of Las Palmas liquor license, but because the Fire Department and ISD had closed Las Palmas doors for code violations,” he wrote.

“The letter is an obvious ‘hit piece’ which hardens to Chelsea’s Old Time politics,” he continued. “I was raised in a City that was at one point very corrupt. As a 14 year old I knew the mayor was accepting bribes. I had a childhood where I lived next to two bars that sold drugs and had prostitutes hanging out next to my house. I have the most utter contempt for public officials who are not acting with their constituents best interest in mind or businesses that negatively impact the quality of life for neighbors. For Mr. Black to make charges that I haven’t been an honest loyal public servant to the City and its residents insults me to the bone.”

Avellaneda and several other councillors intimated after the meeting that following the letter, the matter was being put to rest.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he hoped the Council could move past the moment.

“I would hope people put the matter behind them,” he said. “The Council has the ability to review an appointee and they did. The City isn’t going to rise and fall on one appointment to one committee. There are far more weighty matters the City Council should concentrate on than appointments to the License Commission.”

That said, several community members showed up at the Monday meeting to stress that something needs to be done at the License Commission and that a good many of the restaurants and bars are not legitimate.

“If the kitchen closes at 4 p.m. at a so-called family restaurant, that’s not a restaurant,” said Gladys Vega of the Chelsea Collaborative. “There are a lot of restaurants in Chelsea called restaurants that aren’t restaurants. If the City Solicitor needs to be at these meetings, let it be.”

Said Suyepa Perez, “There are more bars in Chelsea than schools and that’s sad because a bar or establishment doesn’t bring anything good for Chelsea. These so-called family restaurants, when you go in there with your kids, they have to see all of these drug people when you’re trying to get food.”

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