WINCHESTER - Is Winchester giving out too many one-day alcoholic beverage licenses? That was the suggestion of Board of Health Director Jen Murphy at this week’s Select Board meeting.
To acquire said license, certain procedural requirements must be met. These licenses are issued by the Select Board for any public event (indoor or outdoor) where alcohol will be served. This does not include private events held at a private residence.
Non-profit organizations may apply for either a one-day all alcoholic beverage or one-day wine and malt license. Profit making organizations may apply for a one-day wine and malt license only. If any event is held in a town-owed facility (such as the high school or town hall), the applicant must have insurance liability.
A special Sunday Entertainment License is also required from the Select Board for any event held on a Sunday.
The applicant must complete the application form and submit it to the Select Board at least two weeks prior to the event (or sooner) to allow time for the board to take action. Select Board meetings take place on Monday nights and their agenda closes the previous Thursday.
No one can obtain a one-day liquor license more than 30 times in any calendar year. Applicants pay a daily fee of $25 for any event with 25 or less people, $50 for any event with up to 75 people and $75 for any event with more than 75 people for each day the event is held. Applicants must also pay a $20 Sunday Entertainment License fee to the town and a $10 fee to the state for events held on a Sunday.
In filing out the application, applicants must state the name and purpose of the event, the number of people attending, where it will be held, name(s) of responsible manager(s) who will be in charge of distributing the liquor, and the date and time of the event.
If the event takes place on a town-owned property, then the applicant must obtain a certificate of insurance naming the Town of Winchester as additional insured for a value of $500,000. The applicant agrees to pay an appropriate rental fee, a fee for all required custodial and related services, and a fee for public safety personnel as required by the police and fire departments.
Holders of a one-day liquor license are required to purchase from an authorized source such as a licensed wholesaler. Someone holding a package store license cannot cater an event with a one-day liquor license as a package store is not a source of inventory. A special licensee must buy directly from a wholesaler.
When Murphy spoke about the board giving out so many one-day liquor licenses she said her concerns came from a public health perspective. Therefore, she proposed new, stronger regulations for the board to consider. She said in this case, policy actually trumps education when it comes to cutting down on any drinking incidents in town.
Select Board Chair Rich Mucci said any new policy won’t have too much impact, as it would mostly strengthen current state law. One thing the new policy would stress is that someone at the event is TIP-certified in distributing alcohol.
Select Board member John Fallon wondered if Murphy spoke to any users of the one-day liquor license to gather feedback, but she said her concerns were strictly in the public health vein.
“There are a lot of ways to get sideways with these regulations,” Select Board member Michelle Prior acknowledged. “The spirit is right, but how strict do we get?”
She didn’t feel as though the town had a lot of problems with teens and 20-somethings getting drunk at a one-day event; instead, it was more so them sneaking off into the woods. Prior said the town needed to find a balance between the policy and cost.
Murphy mentioned data existed that said allowing so many one-day liquor licenses could lead to issues, so she pushed for a preventative approach.
“The alcohol industry pays billions to get us to drink,” the health director remarked.
Vice-chair Anthea Brady said the town could be a leader in making drinking safer, but asked how this policy would line up with other towns. Dot Butler, from the Coalition for a Safer Community, said they were simply looking at the best way to address the issue before it becomes a problem.
Select Board member Michael Bettencourt called Murphy’s policy objective the right one, noting how the town changed the fee structure a few years back to benefit non-profits and those organizations adjusted and responded to the additional precautions.
Butler also noted that while policy may be the best option for curbing drinking issues, education was still needed, calling it a big component.
Fallon suggested crafting any new policy with those who would use it while Butler, also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber would love to have something to assist businesses.
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