Two Chelsea residents looking to break into
the recreational cannabis industry in Chelsea are challenging the ideas behind
the zoning regulations set by the City – regulations that bar such
establishments from the Broadway business corridor and relegate them to
expensive industrial locations in the city.
Chelsea has been known to be quite progressive when it comes to permitting and welcoming the marijuana industry, but the zoning regulations set more than a year ago required that any marijuana businesses be located in the industrial or shopping center districts.
Ola Bayode and Kyle Umemba, both from Chelsea, are questioning the zoning regulations for marijuana establishments – saying they should be allowed in the downtown area to help local residents and people of color to break into the industry. They said they believe retail marijuana could help to revive the downtown area, and they believe the current zoning unintentionally sets a barrier too high for locals to overcome.
That limits them to the Produce Center,
Eastern Avenue or Parkway Plaza, and many in the City have postulated that it
has excluded local people unintentionally from being able to participate or
profit from this new industry.
The Chelsea City Council had just such a
discussion earlier this year, asking if it were possible to set aside licenses
for residents who might qualify in the future – that coming because most of the
City’s licenses were being gobbled up by big-money interests from out of town,
and sometimes out of state.
Now, add Chelsea residents Ola Bayode and
Kyle Umemba to those critics.
Both are young professionals working regular
jobs, but with a hope on the side that they could establish their own business
in Chelsea within the emerging cannabis industry. Being right at the nexus of
Boston and Somerville (and with Everett and Revere having prohibited marijuana
shops), they felt the downtown area was a prime location.
Then they found out about the zoning
restrictions, and found it nearly impossible to draw the interest of investors to
be able to afford the buildout of a place in the industrial areas.
“For us, we can’t even find a place,” said
Bayode. “The one place we did find was on Broadway and Congress. It was a great
location and we went to the City and found it wasn’t allowed. We believe the
City Manager and the City Council need to think five to 10 years ahead…Our
demographic is not Chelsea residents but people who live in One North and
upcoming new Forbes development – people new to Chelsea. We want to provide a
premier boutique opportunity here…This is a critical time. This game is the
first three years and who is able to navigate the waters early will prevail.
It’s hard to grip and replace the incumbent business. That is why it’s so
important to create a business friendly environment that is helpful to local
residents. Right now is the time for that. Later will be too late.”
Bayode said they believe that retail
marijuana would fit really well with the City’s idea for reviving the downtown.
Umemba said it is proven that such establishments are more safe because of
required security, and the foot traffic brings vibrancy to the areas. Having
them walled off, both said, misses a great opportunity to bring people to the
business district, and also to help local business-people get into the
“The build-out cost in the industrial areas
are so expensive,” said Bayode. “Spaces on Broadway are retail ready. They are
made for this. It’s also hard to attract any investors because locating in an
area like that doesn’t seem as credible.”
Umemba said he believes the zoning now
creates a barrier to local people and people of color – maybe even those who
have marijuana convictions and are encouraged by the state to get involved in
“There’s so much investment that can be brought
into the downtown,” he said. “The zoning there now creates an extremely large
barrier for individuals. We’re young guys who went to college and now we work.
We have middle-class jobs. We want to break into this industry in Chelsea, but
the way it’s set up creates an unfair playing field…and Chelsea is progressive
compared to others and we still don’t have an equal playing field.”
Both said they plan to talk with elected
officials and City leaders over the summer to see if there is room to make such
zoning changes – perhaps allowing a few licenses to be located in the downtown
and reserved for Chelsea residents.
“If there are
four or five at least have one or two for Chelsea people,” Bayode said. “It
shouldn’t all be big companies from the outside.”
A huge crowd is expected to be on hand when
Chelsea honors one of its most prominent and philanthropic individuals on July
27 at the Saul Nechtem Gymnasium.
And what they will be celebrating is not
only Herbie Kupersmith’s milestone birthday but all the good deeds that Herbie
has done in a life well lived.
Herbie’s proud family, his wife, Cookie,
daughters, Karyn, Stacey, and Marci and grandchildren, Michael, Jackie, and
Colin head the list of guests that will travel far and wide to be at the party.
Guidance From his Mother and Four Valuable Mentors
Herbie Kupersmith moved from Brooklyn to
Chelsea with his mother, Sally, when he was two-and-half years old.
“We lived on 13 Michael’s Place, which was
off Williams Street,” said Herbie, an only child. “We were 35 feet away from
the Chelsea Dump.”
Four highly respected Chelsea men would
become Herbie’s “mentors.”
“Hugh J. McLaughlin, the former mayor,
Julius Zeff, teacher and basketball coach, Paul “Choc” Glazer, community leader
and head of the YMHA, and Harry Coltun, legal counsel for the Mass. House of
Representatives – those four people, along with my mother – made it possible
for me to be the person I am today,” said Herbie.
Herbie began attending the Walnut Street
Synagogue as a young boy and was bar mitzvahed there in 1952. It was the
beginning of his lifelong connection and support of the shul. Through the years
Herbie has been instrumental in fundraising and helping the historic shul
remain in operation.
What Herbie remembers most about his bar
mitzvah was the advice he received from his mother in the form of three letters
she had handwritten to him.
“Never drink the cup dry – leave some for
other people,” recalled Herbie. “No. 2 was, if you’re going to do something, do
it because you want to do it, not because you want to get accolades. And No. 3,
my mother wrote, ‘I want you to be a giver, not a taker.’”
Herbie developed a love of sports at a young
age. He was the starting guard for the Williams Junior High School basketball
team that won 27 games in a row. He later played basketball at Chelsea High
School for Coach Saul Nechtem.
Success in the Business World
After high school Herbie took a job at Nunn
Bush selling shoes at Kennedy’s and Filene’s.
He had other jobs in sales before taking a
position at Bobbie Brooks, a junior sportswear company.
With his magnetic personality, charisma,
style, street smarts, common sense, honesty and integrity, Herbie set sales
records and took over the entire Boston territory. He remained at Bobbie Brooks
for 25 years.
All About Family
He met his future wife, Cookie, on a blind
date and they were married in May, 1965.
They began their life together in Malden and
moved to Marblehead in December, 1965. They have lived in the town ever since.
The Kupersmiths have three children, Karyn,
Stacey, and Marci, all of whom are college graduates. Two of the Kupersmith
grandchildren, Michael Walsh and Jackie Walsh, are graduates of Brown
University. A third grandchild, Colin Walsh, is a student at Elon College in
A Party for Herbie That is Also a Testimonial
The upcoming birthday party will be a
testimonial in many ways, with so many people wanting to thank Herbie for the
help and support he has given them in so many ways.
The student-athletes like former Marblehead
and Stonehill College basketball standout David Siggers, the coaches like John
DiBiaso, the members of the congregation at Walnut Street Synagogue, the
business associates, the friends like lifelong buddy Lennie Nelson, the
co-chairs of planning committees like the great Minna Karas-Marino, and the
city officials like Leo Robinson – they’ll all be there to say “Thank you,
Herbie,” for being such a positive, uplifting presence in my life.
Rita’s will cater the gala affair. Comedian
Brad Mastrangelo will perform and DJ George Athas will provide the musical
entertainment. Former City Manager Jay Ash will be one of the speakers during
“It should be a nice evening,” said Herbie
True to Herbie’s
giving nature, all donations from the birthday party will go toward a scholarship
fund for Chelsea students.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino presented a
city budget just short of $181,500,000 for Fiscal Year 2020 to the City Council
The proposed budget funds city expenditures
at $86,095,981 and the schools at $95,391,784 for a total budget of
$181,487,765. This budget is about $6.5 million more than the FY19 budget, an
increase of 3.71 percent.
“The FY20 budget continues support for many
programs we have implemented over the past few years,” Ambrosino stated in a
letter to the City Council.
The City Manager is proposing full funding
for social services programs in the downtown, including the Navigators and
Youth Navigator program. The Health and Human Services budget also includes a
new social services contract to support the ISD housing program.
The budget does include new positions in
three city departments — E-911, DPW, and Elder Services — and an increase
from a part-time to a full-time position in the Licensing Department. The E-911
increase, a total of three new full-time positions, follows a personnel review
by the department’s new director.
Increases in the DPW include personnel for a
new 311 system as well as a group of new hires required for the city to operate
its own Water and Sewer Department.
The FY20 budget includes funds in salary
reserve to cover the anticipated costs of ongoing union negotiations with City
Hall employees. With the exception of the police and fire union contracts, all
municipal union contracts expire on June 30 of this year.
•In other business, the Council approved an
order proposed by councillors Giovanni Recupero, Enio Lopez, Luis Tejada, and
Damali Vidot requiring that all street cleanings should be limited to the same
amount of time in every street. Lopez and Recupero both noted that residents
who live in areas where they have to move their cars for five hours for street
cleaning face greater hardship than those where street cleaning is limited to
•The council also held a public hearing on
zoning amendments that will allow for outdoor dining and improved signage and
facades in the city.
business owners and city officials spoke in support of the zoning amendments,
noting it would improve the look of the downtown and make for a livelier, safer
On Wednesday, April 3, the Licensing
Commission approved a four-day license for New Hampshire-based Fiesta Shows to
hold a four-day carnival on the Chelsea Commons this spring.
During the short public hearing to approve
the license, Chelsea Police Captain Keith Houghton said the City’s public
safety agencies have never had an issue with Fiesta Shows. The company also
runs events nearby in Revere and Lynn, among other communities.
At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda said
he’s had experience with Fiesta Shows owner John Flynn in the past, and that
Flynn has always run a tight and secure ship with his shows. In addition,
Avellaneda noted that Fiesta Shows will make a donation to the City’s summer
Licensing Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni
said she did have some concerns about the carnival operating until 11 p.m.,
especially on Thursday night.
Flynn said while the license has the closing
time at 11 p.m., festivities and rides typically wind down around 10 p.m.,
giving police time to sweep the area by 11 p.m. Music and amplification is
usually shut down at 9 p.m., he added.
•In other business, the Commission denied a
permit that would have allowed for Friday night social events at the Rincon
Hondureno Function Hall at 194 Broadway. Commission members and City officials
expressed concern that the social night would effectively turn the function
hall into a nightclub.
•The Licensing Commission also approved a
liquor license transfer for La Esquina Mariachi Restaurant at 170 Washington
Ave., the former site of the Plaza Mexico restaurant.
The pastor and parishioners from the
neighboring church expressed concerns about the new restaurant, given their
experience in the past.
While the Commission approved the license,
members asked that the owners are mindful of the past history at 170 Washington
“You need to be very conscious of the
environment you are stepping into,” said Licensing Commission Chair Mark Rossi.
“Please don’t disappoint us.”
Dr. Deborah Wayne’s optometry shop has been
on Broadway in one way or another since 1936, but in 2019 she’s hoping that new
City guidelines and a store improvement program will help her shop – and others
around it – catapult into the new century.
“You want to see quality businesses and you
want them to look like quality businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a fabulous
idea. It’s an old storefront. I have a storefront that doesn’t have any grates.
We’ve been operating in one location or another on Broadway since 1936 and
we’ve never had a grate. I’d do anything to get the grates off the businesses
on Broadway. I think they’re ugly. I’m hoping that these regulations go through
so I can take advantage of the program. I don’t want to take action and build
something that isn’t in compliance. I’m ready to rip the front off my store. I
She shares the enthusiasm of most of the
business community on Broadway, who wholeheartedly support a set of design
guidelines for the corridor, as well as a storefront improvement assistance
Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney has
proposed the regulations this spring to the Planning Board, and had a hearing
on April 1. They will have a stop at the City Council again with a ruling promised
“The goal is to be attractive and be
maintained and lit well,” she said. “It’s also transparency of the windows.
We’re telling folks not to have the big frosted glass and we would like the
business to take down the big metal grates. In a lot of cases, they aren’t
necessary because it can done other ways. We can meet the goal of safety and
meet the goal of feeling safe and having an attractive façade.”
One of the problems, she said, is that the
regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some
cases not allowing simple things like a blade sign. A blade sign is a suspended
sign that faces those walking on the sidewalk. Because of the outdated
regulations, she said, many store owners are hesitant to make upgrades that
could be a code violation.
“The downtown has always been a bunch of
things, but the rules never changed so it means the businesses can’t update or
maintain their facades,” she added.
Alberto Calvo of Stop & Compare
Supermarket said they improved their façade and sign a few years ago, and it
made a huge difference. He’s excited to see that happen throughout the business
“We’re absolutely excited to see movement
toward the revamping of sign ordinances,” offered Calvo, also executive vice
president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.
“A few years ago, we at Stop & Compare in Chelsea invested
significantly to improve our building’s façade and to install updated, modern
signage. It has made a marked, positive
difference in our foot traffic and sales at that location, and I very much want
to see other businesses in the Downtown corridor benefit from these kinds of
Chelsea Chamber President Joseph W. Mahoney
added, “We do get member businesses, and non-members, too, asking whether there
are programs to assist business owners to fund signage and façade
improvements. For façades, we know that
there is a small program to be made available, but the roll-out of the façade
program has been at least a couple of years in the making. Our understanding is
that there may also be a cost-sharing program for signage as well. The new
signage ordinances still need to be passed by the City Council, so we’ve been
telling businesses to sit tight, but be ready. We’ve been saying the same thing
to our member and non-member businesses in the signage business. We suggested to Craig Murphy, owner of our
member Cambridge Reprographics, start talking to people now.”
“I think businesses are most excited about
the potential return of blade signs,” Mahoney elaborated, “those that are
perpendicular to the building.”
Newburyport’s shopping district is full of those signs.
When one drives down its streets, one can
see the businesses’ signs before accidentally passing them. Pedestrians also
can spot their destination from a half-block away.
•Another piece of the regulations addresses
outdoor or sidewalk dining – which was pioneered by the Ciao! Market on
Broadway two summers ago. It was a success, by most accounts, and Graney said
they would like to encourage others to try it.
First, however, they wanted to put some
standards in place.
The regulations would only allow such dining
on sidewalks and they would have to be immediately in front of the business.
The furniture would have to be matching and of a high quality. There would have
to be a safety plan, and businesses would be responsible for the area. No
alcohol service would be allowed for the time being.
Seasonal heaters for outdoor dining are also
“Realistically, there’s not a lot of space,”
she said. “Downtown, where this works, it’s two or three tables or six people.
It’s similar to what Ciao! Did on their pilot.”
Addressing the proposed sidewalk dining
ordinance, Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie was slightly more
“Edson and Marvin from Ciao Pizza definitely
have been the market movers on this and need to be applauded,” he said. “They
put in the work and time with the City to test it out. But let’s say it’s a nice summer evening and
you and I wanted to have a beer and split a plate of nachos al fresco at a
local restaurant on Broadway; maybe an
after work meeting or just something social. We sit down at the table and
chairs on the sidewalk and then are told, ‘No, sorry. No alcohol is allowed
outside.’ Like many people, we’re just
going to get up, apologize, and either go to the inside of that restaurant, or
another restaurant, or worse, decide to move our meeting or dinner to another
Cuthie said there is no compelling argument
for a business owner to make the investment in tables, chairs, and staffing
while also having to insure against additional outdoor liabilities if the
potential revenues to offset those costs are not there.
“No mistake,” Cuthie continued, “we’re happy
and appreciative that the City is moving to try to formally create a path to
outdoor dining, but without beer, wine, and cocktails—which by the way are a
restaurant’s highest margin offerings and offset food costs, we’re missing the
mark and I have to reserve judgment on the initiative’s ultimate success. I don’t want Chelsea to always be 10 years
behind other communities. We need proper updating now so that people will say,
‘It’s a beautiful evening, let’s have some margaritas and good Latin food in
Chelsea tonight. We’ll decide where we
want to eat when we get there, because there are so many outdoor dining
The School Committee passed a $95.4 million
School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the
total number of nine committee seats.
The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million
funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved
by a 4-2 vote.
School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle
and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez
and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives
who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from
the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.
School Committee members and administrators
said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the
needs of the Chelsea schools.
Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas
Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea
schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban
communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.
“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the
superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino.
“The City is really trying to do its fair share.”
That included the City providing an
additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.
“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal
Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.
Regardless of how the School Committee ended
up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure
he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City
“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and
reasonable,” said Ambrosino.
Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said
attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70
state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.
Bourque said she agreed that the time is now
to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be
underfunded $17 million by the state.
The other factor leading to cuts in the budget
is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of
this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a
larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the
Carlisle voted against the proposed budget,
but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but
with the state.
“The problem is with the state,” said
Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a
School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed
the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.
“The votes we make are very hard,” she said.
“This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the
best of the entire school system.”
But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching
positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the
schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have
projected another 10 for 2020.
“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,”
he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t
support these cuts.”
School Committee member Yessenia
Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best
interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that
Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state
•In other business, the Committee voted to
forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.
Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and
middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing
Conference in May.
When it comes to dentistry it seems that the
apple does not fall far from the tree and Dr. Jeffrey Benecchi, DMD is living
Sure he could have become an
environmentalist, he graduated from Bates College with a degree in
environmental science and economics, but it was the influence of his father
John, also a dentist, and grandfather Leo, a physician in Revere, who steered
him toward dentistry and to being a 2009 graduate of the Tufts Dental School.
think it’s in our family history. I always had it in me with my father being a
dentist,” Benecchi said from his office at 140 School St. He loves dentistry
from the hands-on nitty gritty parts of the business to the patient
interaction. His father John graduated in 1976 from Tufts Dental School and
started his practice a couple years later
Today Jeffrey runs the practice by himself
since his father retired at the end of last year. He has 10 employees. Most who
also had worked for his father.
“He’s still says hi to everyone,” Jeffrey
Jeffrey has always liked working with his
hands and he felt dentistry was a natural fit. He liked being around the
patients and see what his father was working on. Not the corporate model of
dentistry but a hands-on approach.
“I still like that personal touch,” he
“It’s been a good job to help people and be
able to see things done with the artistry of dentistry,” Jeffrey said. “I like
everything there is to do with dentistry.”
The Benecchi dental practice specializes in
general dentistry for everyone from children to the elderly.
“Basically we offer what a lot of people
need to have done.” Jeffrey said.
Keeping up with the latest technology, Dr.
Benecchi uses digital scanners to avoid goopy mouth molds for dental
There are also digital x-rays and cameras
now that they use when working with a
local laboratory for caps and crowns.
He noted that he will also be having a
couple of associates added to the practice to help with an increasing patient
The city is mourning the loss of Joanne
Tarason, a popular local business owner and highly respected community leader
who touched the lives of many residents with her kindness and generosity.
Mrs. Tarason died on Tuesday. She was 77.
Joanne Tarason owned Coprico Printing
(formerly Sir Speedy) at 40 Washington Ave., located across the street from
Chelsea City Hall. She was also a long-time member of the Rotary Club and the
Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.
Mrs. Tarason donated her services to many
local organizations. Though she received numerous awards in appreciation of her
generous contributions and volunteer services, she always deflected the praise
to others and tried to stay out of the spotlight.
“Joanne helped out so many groups in a quiet
and unassuming way,” said Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson. “She never sought
recognition for her many kind deeds and generous assistance. Chelsea has a lot
a great woman, community leader and friend.”
Councillor-at-Large Calvin Brown said Mrs.
Tarason was “one of Chelsea’s unsung heroes.”
“Joanne did so much for so many and was
admired by all,” said Brown. “It was always a pleasure to see her at local
social events. We have lost a great friend to Chelsea.”
Mrs. Tarason was a goodwill ambassador for
the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, always lending her support at
installation of officers dinners, community fundraisers, and the Chamber’s
$10,000 Pot-O-Gold Dinners.
But her reign of kindness and premier
platform of helpfulness was at her local business where residents would often
stop in just to say hello. She was meticulous in her work and customers came
from far and wide to have their printing jobs, large and small, done at her
Mrs. Tarason stayed ahead of the
technological advances in the printing business, acquiring new skills and
equipment to meet the requests of her large clientele.
The Chelsea City
Council will pay tribute to Mrs. Tarason with a moment of silence at its Feb.
The Licensing Commission has continued a
hearing on special additional rules for marijuana establishments to its March
The commission opened the public hearing at
its meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17.
While the hearing did not generate much
controversy, commissioners did agree that they wanted more time to consider
several issues, including language limiting where retail marijuana shops can be
concentrated, and the amount the city will charge for application fees.
“I’d like to see more research and see what
nearby cities have done and what their challenges are,” said commission member
Currently, there are three applications in
the works for retail marijuana shops in the city. The city will allow a maximum
of four retail licenses.
According to the proposed regulation, the
Licensing Commission will not issue a license to anyone who has violated
Licensing Commission rules and regulations in the past five years. All licenses
are subject to zoning approval and state Cannabis Control Commission approval.
The operating hours for retail shops will be
limited to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and all signage will have to be approved by the
city, according to City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher.
“We are trying to be a little more
restrictive now so we don’t have to clean up after the fact, like with liquor
licenses,” said Fisher.
The section of the proposed regulations that
garnered the most discussion among commission members was one which would limit
the concentration of where retail marijuana shops can be located.
Fisher noted that the language included in
the draft regulations, limiting retail shops to one per voting district and not
within 500 feet of another retail marijuana store, was not included by the
legal department. She said it was included because it was a request made during
a past public hearing on marijuana regulations.
“We already have a very small area in
Chelsea, and retail shops are already restricted to three zones and can’t be
within 500 feet of schools,” said Fisher. “It is already quite restrictive of
where you can put a facility.”
The city will allow marijuana establishments
in the Industrial, Shopping Center, and Business Highway zone.
Licensing Commission Chairman Mark Rossi
said he’d like the commission to have more discretion over where facilities can
“Our job is to factor in the input from the
community and the licensees,” said Rossi.
Much like it does with liquor licenses,
Rossi said the Licensing Commission will be getting input from the community,
police and fire departments, and other city officials when it comes to making a
final determination on issuing a marijuana license.
“This committee is uniquely situated to make
that determination,” he said.
Commission member James Guido said he would
like more information on limiting concentration in voting districts before
making a final decision on the proposed regulation.
Rossi also said he had questions about the
$5,000 application and annual renewal fee for marijuana establishments, stating
he would like to see a higher number.
Rossi said the application fees and
concentration of locations will be discussed when the hearing is continued at
its March 7 meeting.
“This is a big issue that affects everyone,”
•In other business, the Licensing Commission
adjusted its penalty for Rincon Latinos restaurant at 373 Washington Ave. In
December, the commission suspended the restaurant’s liquor license for eight
days spread over four weekends for repeated instances of exceeding its
Last week, the commission agreed to suspend
the license for two weekends in January, as well as for a five-day stretch
during the week when a new handicap bathroom will be installed by the
The new bathroom will allow Rincons Latinos
to increase its capacity from 17 to 28 people, according to John Dodge, the
attorney representing the owners.
The City of Chelsea has filed a brief with
the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) to dismiss the case brought
by nine liquor licensees to overturn the ban on small liquor bottles (50 mL),
known as nips.
On Dec. 8, in a hearing at the ABCC, the
licensees argued their cause.
However, the City has now filed a motion
indicating that the ABCC does not have jurisdiction to decide on the challenge
of the ban. The case is somewhat groundbreaking because Chelsea is the first
municipality to attempt to ban all nip sales. While few communities find nips a
plus due to increased litter and public drinking, the sales are strong pieces
of business for many liquor stores – including Chelsea. A number of communities
and liquor retailers are watching the case very closely to see what they will
do in their communities as well.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the key will
be whether there is jurisdiction.
“They will decide on that preliminary issue
soon,” he said. “If they have jurisdiction, they’ll decide on the issue. If
they decide they don’t have jurisdiction, then the ban stands.”
The motion by the City indicates, “The ABCC
is not a super-regulatory authority for review of regulations issued by local
licensing authorities, and therefore is not the proper forum for Appellants to
challenge the regulations.”
One of the other objections in the motion
are that the licensees did not appeal the decision until many months later, in
September, while the ban started in May.
Chelsea moved last year to institute the ban
on nips, and it has been in effect for many months. A second attempt to ban 100
mL bottles of liquor was tabled until the case was heard and decided.
Ambrosino said he has noticed some definite
improvements since the ban went into effect.
“I do notice a little difference,” he said.
“I think the Downtown Task Force police officers will tell you the same. I
think it’s been effective. It’s one piece of many efforts we have in place.
There’s a lot of things that contribute to the absence of that problem,
including all the social services and resources going on as well.”
The licensees are expected to file their
brief in response to the City’s motion to dismiss within the week.