TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Board of Selectmen met on June 17, 2020 via teleconference to discuss liquor licenses and prepare for Town Meeting.
The board reviewed a wine and malt liquor license application for Theo’s Restaurant Group at 1625 Andover St. for a proposed new restaurant of 4,400 square feet and 74 seats.
“It’s a $3 million dollar plus investment in your town,” said the proponents’ attorney.
Construction is projected to start immediately following the state’s approval to allow construction to resume in Massachusetts because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the building should be completed within eight to nine months after that.
However, a letter was sent to the town by the proponents that when an all-liquor license becomes available, they would like to apply for it. This is the town’s last available wine and malt liquor license. The town is currently petitioning the state for more licenses; the town’s 30 all-liquor licenses are being actively used.
The new owners currently operate Jimmy’s Pizza Too in Lowell and have more than 20 years’ experience in restaurant ownership. The new restaurant will be “fast casual” for takeout and dine-in options, with an outdoor patio; menu options will include pizza, gourmet sandwiches, fried and broiled seafood, and soups.
The restaurant is not seeking to become a “watering hole” according to the proponent, but rather a family-friendly option to service nearby hotels and travelers on Route 133.
Board member Brian Dick praised the “exciting project” for the town, and asked, “What type of assurance can we give the business owners... to make sure that the $3 million investment doesn’t go by the wayside. The town wants to be a good partner. I am fine... to make a commitment to the business owner. What can we do to assure that business owner... for their investment in town?” in regards to the future availability of an all-liquor license.
Senior town counsel Charles Zaroulis explained that “the town should not give any assurance that will lead one to believe they will have a guarantee for a license... as this hearing is supposed to be a fair, impartial hearing, the next hearing for a full liquor license needs also to be a full hearing without any preconditions or statements or assurances.
“It has to be a hearing on the merits of that time. To give an assurance now, in my view, would color the position of the board insofar as that next hearing would be concerned, because someone could say [the board] made a predetermination as to the outcome of that hearing, and I believe that’s inappropriate.
“These people, whoever goes into business, make a calculation (and) there is nothing on my table that would indicate any disqualifying event as to a hearing on a full liquor license, but also, I don’t know between now and then if there are going to be violations at this restaurant. I think it’s inappropriate to give an assurance; I’m surprised it’s being requested.”
The board voted to grant the wine and malt liquor license with the condition that the certification of completion for the project be presented to the board within 18 months. The license will actually be issued when the restaurant is completed. If an all-liquor license is obtained by the owners, they will have to turn in the wine and malt liquor license.
The board reviewed a change of officers and directors and change of beneficial interest application for the 99 Restaurant. The board previously voted in the affirmative on the issue “pending there are no direct abutters that have any issue with that,” said chairman Jay Kelly, though the board never published the public hearing.
“I think we are good,” said Kelly, with no direct abutters calling in.
The board reviewed an application for an entertainment license from Main Street Sports Grille Corp. The proponent is seeking to run trivia nights and one- or two-piece bands. The board approved the license.
The board approved a pole petition on Woburn Street for National Grid.
The board reviewed Articles 27 and 28 of the annual Town Meeting warrant, the updated zoning bylaw and accompanying map. Due to COVID-19 and concerns over resident participation and health risks, the board was unsure whether the articles should be presented at Town Meeting.
Town manager Richard Montuori said that while there are no projects in the pipeline presently that would be affected by the new zoning bylaws between now and special Town Meeting in October, development beyond that remained unknown; additionally, he was unsure that public health restrictions would look any different in the fall.
Members also expressed concerns about pushing the issue beyond October. As the proponents, the zoning bylaw committee met Monday to discuss whether to pull the article from the warrant.
The board reappointed volunteer committee members appointed by the select board who wished to remain on their committees. The board will be posting vacancies and revisiting the issue in a few weeks. The board thanked committee members for their continued work in the community.
The board also decided to keep their own committee appointments the same; Jayne Wellman additionally requested to join the economic development committee, pending a vacancy. The board also voted to reappoint town counsel and senior town counsel.
Town manager Richard Montuori introduced Ryan Columbus, Tewksbury’s newly appointed chief of police following Chief Tim Sheehan’s retirement at the beginning of the year. As this is a civil service position, Montuori hired a firm to administer assessments for candidates, then interviewed the top three candidates.
Columbus has worked for the department for 20 years and was previously a detective lieutenant. He graduated from TMHS, the FBI National Academy, and has a degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College.
Montuori said that Columbus’ leadership skills, understanding of the police department, and vision for the department led to his decision. Montuori praised all the candidates, and believed Columbus will be a good fit.
Columbus thanked the committee: “We’re going to do what’s best for the community and the residents we serve,” he said.
The board reminded the community that there will be a food drive at Oakdale Plaza on Saturday, June 27 from 9 a.m. - noon, to benefit the Tewksbury Food Pantry.
The next meeting is scheduled for June 30, 2020. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33.