R.I. Billiards owner: Too many liquor licenses

R.I. Billiards owner: Too many liquor licenses

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The owner of Rhode Island Billiard, Bar & Bistro on Smith Street is suggesting that the town is giving out too many liquor licenses, saying increasingly cheap beer sold locally is increasing accessibility to alcohol and diminishing public safety.

Anthony Costanzo III sent a letter to the town claiming the increased sale of beer at the same price as a soda is getting “out of control.” One local bar offered $3 drinks, and another then decided to go down to $2. Sadly, said Costanzo at the Nov. 5 council meeting, “somebody is going to be killed with all this excessive drinking.”

He also referenced the fact that the cheaper drinks are impacting longstanding businesses.

But council members responded that the town hasn’t actually increased the number of local liquor licenses in nearly 20 years, Councilor Manny Giusti saying there have been the same number of licenses since he became councilman 16 years ago. Town Clerk Mary Ann DeAngelus said there was an increase at one point some time ago in one type of liquor license, but another class was then dropped.

Giusti told Costanzo that he has to expect competition due to having a business located in a commercial zone, but the town can’t start regulating who gets licenses and who doesn’t based on businesses being too close to the billiard facility. He understands Costanzo’s concern, said Giusti, but cheap beers are not the council’s problem. If complaints get bad enough, the Police Department gets involved. Costanzo responded that perhaps he’s just noticing the number of liquor licenses now because so many bars are located within a quarter-mile of him.

He said there are state regulations the town should be enforcing on sales of liquor, including not having illegal happy hours or discounting drinks on a Sunday.

Though the council declined to get involved on trying to limit the number of licenses, Councilor Anthony Martone did make a successful motion related to regulating liquor licenses. Martone said he thinks it’s unfair to allow businesses to operate while skirting the rules or not adhering to laws. He and the council sent a letter to police to ask them to look at all local businesses to make sure they’re adhering to laws.

Martone said he has been surprised that nearly all liquor licenses with entertainment are directly abutting residential zones, having a big impact on homes. He said he wants a complete accounting of where all the license-holders are located.

According to data collected during the Nov. 5 meeting and presented to Costanzo, the town has five Class A liquor licenses, which are all issued, 31 BV licenses (food), which are all issued, one BT tavern liquor license, with zero issued, 10 BVL licenses, with three issued, 14 Class D full club licenses, with nine issued, one Class D limited license, which is in effect, and one available Class M liquor license, with none issued. November of 2003 was the last time the town addressed the number of liquor licenses, said DeAngelus.

Costanzo said he hopes no one on the council has to deal with the negative outcome from having too much alcohol being served. He suggested that he and others will be forced to compete at the same pricing level.

Also last week, Costanzo brought up his concern about snow-clearing efforts along Smith Street, where heavy loads are routinely deposited far onto the sidewalk and sometimes even break his facility’s front windows. He questioned whether state plow drivers need to be so aggressive with their plowing, and asked town officials to also enforce the rules to make sure all businesses are clearing the spaces in front of their stores.

Martone and the council sent a letter to Mayor Charles Lombardi asking him to set up a meeting with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to come up with a reasonable solution to address the concerns.

Comments

I hope Mr. Constanzo doesn't market his wine as sour grapes, but his complaint smells of them. He's upset because his competitors are selling their product too cheaply and is concerned that "someone is going to get killed with this excessive drinking." Does he have evidence that folks are "excessively drinking?" Does this occur at his establishment? Simply put, his statement is ridiculous and if he wants to stay competitive, he should perhaps lower his prices? Novel thought.

I completely agree with the last comment!

RI Billiards is known for price gouging their customers. If you order a drink there, it will cost you double of what another bar charges. I think the sour grapes comment is valid.