The Saugus Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to seek two additional all-alcoholic licenses for restaurants, but one board member called the decision “shortsighted” because it didn’t go far enough to raise much-needed revenue for the town. The Town of Brookline also recently decided to seek additional liquor licenses.
Selectman Stephen Castinetti, who made the motion to pursue additional liquor licenses last month, said officials need to think outside the box to maximize revenues given the difficult financial situation facing the town.
Along those lines, Castinetti asked his fellow board members to support petitioning the state for 10 total licenses — five new all-alcoholic licenses and five new beer and wine licenses. He estimated the action would generate up to $100,000 for the town, factoring in license fees and the .75 percent local option meals tax.
Castinetti stressed that Saugus differs from other communities of the same size in that Route 1 generates more than one million vehicles that pass through the town each week.
“We’re not taking advantage of the financial opportunities we have on Route 1,” Castinetti said.
Castinetti said everyone in town wants better services, but emphasized for that to happen the town needs revenue sources.
One of the quickest ways to bring in revenue, Castinetti said, is to increase the number of liquor licenses the town has available to hand out to businesses.
Castinetti recalled how during a recent meeting the board only had one all-alcoholic license to distribute to three prospective businesses. Joseph Pace received the lone remaining license to operate a function hall/restaurant on Main Street, but Carmaleno’s Pushcart Restaurant and the proposed Pearl Street Café in the former Border Café location on Route 1 South went home empty-handed.
“If we had three liquor licenses I think the board was unanimous we’d give away all three, but we didn’t have three,” Castinetti said.
In addition, Castinetti contended that the town having a pool of licenses to draw on would entice other businesses to open in Saugus.
Selectman Stephen Horlick expressed concern that adding 10 liquor licenses would hurt the value of establishments that already possess one.
“How would you like to have a business that you wake up tomorrow that asset is worth zero because the town has a drawer full of liquor licenses?” Horlick said. “I don’t want to hurt every single business overnight.”
Even if the town were to receive an additional 10 liquor licenses in six months, Horlick said he doesn’t believe there are enough businesses that would want to exercise them.