Narragansett Headlines

7/20/06


New liquor store granted license

 

NARRAGANSETT Pier Liquors, the new liquor store to open in the Pier Marketplace alongside the new Belmont Market next spring, was granted a Class A liquor license Monday, about a month later than expected.

Liquor store regulations forced Vincent J. “Jack” Siravo, owner of Belmont Market, to disown himself from the new liquor store venture because he would then own two grocery stores in neighboring towns. Although Siravo would have owned only one liquor store, the state Department of Business Regulations took a strict interpretation of the law and decided Siravo would be in violation.

After Siravo asked the council for a continuance on June 22, Debra S. Manni, his sister, appeared before the council as the lone officer of the new store Monday and readily accepted their conditions of approval, which make the license nontransferable, limit the store’s size to 2,500 square feet and prohibit lit signs, window signs and exterior banners.

“It will be upscale,” Manni said. “We want the exact same thing. I’m not having Budweiser or balloons or beer bottles outside.”

Councilwoman Krista J. Garrett said she felt confident that Manni had the right intentions but explained that the restrictions were a safety measure.

“The only fear is that we know the distributors can be persuasive,” Garrett said. “So if you have a problem with that, you can blame us.”

Approval of the license marks a key step in the gradual transformation of the Pier. Without Belmont Market and the attached Pier Liquors, some argue that the Town Council and Gilbane Development Co., the owners of the property, would still be in talks about the future of the development. Instead, with a signed development contract, Narragansett’s downtown is on the verge of a experiencing a major construction boom.

All along, the council members have supported creating a new liquor license to seal the deal between Siravo and Gilbane. Although it was advertised and anyone could apply. Siravo was the lone applicant.

The council is anticipating firm construction drawings for the new supermarket and liquor store in the coming weeks. Since the council’s final approval of the plan, Gilbane erected a chain-link fence around the site and a backhoe has been removing fill along Narragansett Avenue. Soon, where an earthen hole has been carved, workers will start to build 16 new units of luxury condominiums with underground parking.

The license did have one objector, resident Doug Wardwell, who said that a new liquor store would encourage more drinking in the community.

“What I’m concerned with, and what I think the chief is concerned with because he’s a member of the [Narragansett/URI Coalition], is the fact that we make more licenses which means more people are going to buy, more people are going to drink, more people are going to be on the road, because you’ve made it more accessible to them.”

Steve Glazer, chairman of the Oceanside Condominium Association, urged the council to approve the measure.

“On behalf of Oceanside Condos, on behalf of the merchants in all parts of the Gilbane area you all worked so hard on, this is part of package,” Glazer said. “This is the one of the keys that makes this whole revival work. The applicant and applicant’s family are terrific. I think the whole development is going to be upscale and I don’t think it poses a single problem.”

Police Chief J. David Smith said police are equipped to work with the new liquor store to ensure responsible beverage service and, if the site does pose a problem, he said appearing before the council for a show-cause hearing is always an effective way to respond.

“There are some reasonable safeguards in place,” Smith said, adding that the town’s population size has, for several years, allowed for a fourth Class A license, suggesting that the town could have seen a new store built three or four years ago.

The chain store law that postponed the new license was passed in 2004. It is designed to prohibit liquor store chains from forming and expanded a 1933 law prohibiting liquor franchises. It forced many large liquor stores with multiple locations, such as Haxton’s and Douglas Wine & Spirits, to either divest their interests, changing the names of many locations and spread out their ownership, or face consequences from the state.

Douglas Wine & Spirits sued the state and the matter is pending in federal court, although Chief U.S. Judge Ernest C. Torres denied Wine & Sprits’ request for an injunction.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in August.

Because the interpretation of the law is under scrutiny, some believe that the state is taking a hard-line approach rather than judging each case on its own merits.

 

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