Fewer bar stools in town as council kills one liquor license

Fewer bar stools in town as council kills one liquor license

CUMBERLAND - Commenting that "we don't want every corner in Cumberland having a bar," Town Council member Bill Murray won approval this month for the first reduction in the number of Class BV liquor licenses in decades.

By resolution on May 1, councilors eliminated one to reduce the number to 21.

Freshman Councilor Murray is chairman of the Board of License Commissioners that oversees all liquor licenses.

The BV license, short for beverage and victualling, is the one assigned to most barrooms in town. And even though regulated by the town, the license can add thousands of dollars to the value of a drinking establishment when it's sold.

Town Clerk Sandra Giovanelli told The Breeze that she and Murray unsuccessfully searched through town records looking for the ordinance or resolution that explained why the number was set long ago at 22.

The eliminated license had been owned by the proprietors of Pitcher's Pub, 80 Manville Hill Road.

When the establishment closed more than a year ago, councilors found themselves in the middle of a three-way conflict over the license's future as the current business owners, Mark A. Williamson and Frank Rotondo, the real estate owner, Bruce Altieri, and an investor, Robert Urden, all pleaded with councilors to keep extending the license for potential buyers long after the rules said the license should have been surrendered.

Earlier this year, councilors' patience ran out about the same time bankruptcy proceedings were settled and the license went back to the town.

A lottery had been planned after four establishments indicated an interest.

"We looked into it," said Murray, "but we felt if it went to a lottery we wouldn't have as much control."

He says he also checked in with Police Chief John Desmarais, who supported eliminating one license. Desmarais told The Breeze that although the town's barrooms aren't generally a problem, he believes the community would prefer one less, too.

Council President James Higgins had a different take on the issue this spring when he proposed increasing the number from 22 to 25. That idea was never put to a vote and he couldn't be reached this week to explain his reasoning.

A lottery had been held last September when the license held by the shuttered Dancing Pig on West Wrentham Road became available. Forno's Pizzeria on Mendon Road was the winner in that round.

The impact of this month's decision may be immediately obvious since a possible new business owner for the Pitcher's Pub is proposing Stevie D's Bar & Grill.

With no BV licenses available, Steven and Diane Mederios of East Providence are seeking one of the town's Class B Non-Transferrable licenses that was designed for restaurants where food is the dominate feature.

That application was expected this week to be approved for advertisement and a hearing in June.

Cumberland created the BNT license in 2008 to have them available in case, for example, an Appleby's Restaurant wanted to move into town. There's no limit on the number that can be awarded.

However, under the rules of that special license, councilors are supposed to consider whether the plan is in an area where commercial development is desirable and will lead to a neighborhood revitalization and employment opportunities, and whether it offers a unique concept not already available in town.

Holding BNT licenses currently are Andrew's Bistro and Flavours, both on Mendon Road, and Churrascaria Marques on Broad Street.

Interestingly, Churrascaria Marques was one of the four seeking the Dancing Pig license because, the owner said at the time, it added value to his business. The other two were Carelo's Pizzeria on Broad Street and a proposed new business for the Pitcher's Pub site.

Just how valuable a license can be was probably never more publicly aired than in 1985 when the council considered adding one after the local Chelo's family, which built the Chelo's chain of eateries, petitioned the council for a license that wasn't available. The restaurant owners told the town it would close in Cumberland if one weren't made available. The owners rebuffed the suggestion that it pay an existing restaurant the $30,000 going fee for the license.

In the end, council members split 4 to 3 and Chelo's made good on its threat and closed.

Davenport's took over the space on Mendon Road and its successful restaurant eventually won the coveted Class BV license from the town.