One can raise a six-pack to the end of summer if they’re a legal-aged hardworking resident, but one will no longer be able to raise up a 250ml nip bottle due to a continuing voluntary ban by Chelsea liquor stores courtesy of the Chelsea License Commission.
The Chelsea Licensing commission met again on the topic of 250 mL alcohol bottles on Aug. 28 in the Chelsea Public Library to packed room of invested residents, owners, commissioners, and police. They were all there to address the contentious topic of permanently banning 100ml to 250ml bottles and single can/malt bottle beverages.
Following from the initial commission decision to employ a voluntary ban on the June 26, the rare Aug. 28 meeting was an update to see about further action.
Over the summer downtown stores stopped selling nips and voluntarily stopped selling other small bottles as well as two very low-cost liquor brands identified as problematic.
The meeting ended with the resulting community agreeing to maintain a voluntary ban of 100ml and 250ml bottles and new, agreed-upon stipulations for community liquor store owners. The agreement comes on the heels of escalating community tensions with what Chelsea Police have described as “50 or so” individuals who constantly perpetrate public intoxication and littering problems for Chelsea community residents and visitors.
“I can tell you [increasing nip littering] has definitely decreased,” said Chelsea Police Capt. Keith Houghton.
The Chelsea Police Department seemed confident in the immediate results they have witnessed in the following weeks of the proposed ban. However when questioned by License Chair Michael Rossi if the results could be quantified, the police shifted focus and explained they now require a three-hour alcohol safety course.
“I find it really hard to believe there have been no incidents of drunkenness [since the voluntary ban],” stated commission member Roseann Bongiovanni with open skepticism.
Bongiovanni wasn’t the only person in attendance that openly questioned the Police Department’s results and the lasting impression of the ban thus far. Robert Mellion, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, also made his case in the two minutes allotted for public hearings.
“Less restrictive means have completed your goals,” Mellion stated, continuing “There’s no wall around Chelsea.”
Multiple residents and store owners echoed Mellion’s sentiment, agreeing that a legal ban instead of a voluntary ban infringed upon the rights of residents to legally purchase alcohol and would not begin to fully cover the larger issue at hand, alcoholism. The general sentiment being that there was nothing to stop these individuals from getting the same banned 250 ml bottles from liquor stores in neighboring cities and towns.
Mellion addressed those in attendance by listing the critical steps the License Commission, store owners, and police department should collaborate on together. Accomplishing cooperation by employing a voluntary ban of 100ml bottles, establishing a alcohol beverage training course and certification for liquor store owners, maintaining a do not sell list for specific individuals, along with impeding sales to intoxicated buyers.
It was agreed by the Commission to maintain a voluntary ban instead of a permanent one, keying in on public sentiment to not overextend their legal rights over Chelsea residents’ ability to purchase alcohol and promote community agreement and turnout to these meetings.
The training course has already been attended by all 12 local liquor stores, of which 25 individuals from these stores achieved the needed passing score of 75 or better. The Police Department also stated that seven individuals scored a 100.
The voluntary ban itself has not been enough to assuage some residents’ concerns, though. Edon Coimbra, owner of Ciao! Pizza and Pasta, was not content with the decision to tackle part of what he sees as the bigger problem.
“What are you going to do protect us?” Coimbra questioned, adding, “I cannot be dealing with the same individuals every day.”
The Comission had no response for a full blown initiative in tackling persistent alcoholism in Chelsea, and the voluntary ban will have to be measured through quantitative metrics that Rossi and Bongiovanni both identified a need for.
Alcoholism remains the bigger problem to many local residents like Coimbra who must deal with intoxicated individuals loitering near his restaurant on a daily basis, leaving his restaurant and other areas reliant on police assistance for these incidents.
The Commission will take up the issue again in three months.