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New liquor licenses are designed to spur development

Date: 9/19/2014

HOLYOKE – The 13 new liquor licenses created by a bill passed by the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick will be the same in some regards, but different in one key way: they won’t be able to be transferred or sold.

Rory Casey, chief of staff for Mayor Alex Morse, explained to Reminder Publications, most of the licenses will be would be restricted to certain locations within neighborhoods, although five licenses will be considered “at large.”  New businesses will be sought in the Flats, Churchill, South Holyoke and downtown, Casey noted.
The emphasis, he added, is on  restaurants, as opposed to bars, he added.
Casey said that High, Race and Suffolk streets are among the areas the Morse Administration hopes will be the locations for the new businesses.
“We’ll try to create a cluster,” Casey said.
Aside from the current applications fees, Casey said the new licenses will cost the successful applicant $10,000. That fee will be placed in a fund to encourage economic development, rather than going into the city’s coffers, he explained.
Unlike other liquor licenses, these 13 new licenses cannot be sold or transferred. If the applicant wishes to close a business or sell it, the licenses would revert to the city and the new applicant would pay the $10,000 fee, Casey said.
Although the applicant would have to follow the current process to gain a license – approval within the city and from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) in Boston – Casey said there is an additional step. The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority will have a separate application that will include a description of the restaurants, its menu and the number of seats.’
“We don’t want 10 sushi restaurants to open up necessarily,” Casey said. “We want a diverse distribution [of the licenses] – something for everybody.”
Casey said the process to create the legislation for the new licenses started about 18 months ago when he was working for state Rep. Aaron Vega.  The city was at capacity and there was still a need for additional licenses. He said that Vega consulted with the executive director of the ABCC about how communities such as Salem and Quincy sought over-quota licenses to encourage economic development.
He said there has already been interested in expressed in the new licenses from both Holyoke building owners and restaurant owners from outside the city.