Guinasso to Seek Revisit on Liquor License Rollback

April 11, 2012
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After seeing several solid, long-time restaurants close down, Revere License Commissioner Linda Guinasso told the Journal on Monday that, at this Thursday’s meeting, she would request the Commission revisit the controversial liquor license rollback.

Guinasso said while she would still not favor a 2 a.m. closing time, she would like to see something different than the current 12:30 a.m. last call and 1 a.m. closing for licensed liquor establishments. She said she believes the 2008 rollback has hurt too many local businesses during tough economic times.

“In three years I can tell you at least 15 good businesses in our city have gone down and that’s my reason for doing this,” said Guinasso on Monday afternoon. “We are losing commercial tax revenue and losing good businesses. I know the mayor has feelings on this. He’s pro-business, but he has never come to me about this. I know what’s going on in my city and what’s happening to it. I’m really ready to hear what people have to say about it. I’ve been thinking and thinking about it. I didn’t just come up with it the other day.”

Mayor Dan Rizzo would be positively affected by a change in the policy, as he is an owner in the Casa Lucia Function Hall, which currently holds a liquor license. However, Guinasso stressed that her idea didn’t come with any prodding from the mayor or any other establishment owner.

Guinasso also said she hasn’t discussed her proposal with her two colleagues, Commissioners Tom Hennebery and Bob Marra.

“I’m kind of going into this with a blindfold and we’ll see where it goes,” she added.

The rollback discussion began in January 2008, and after several lengthy and heated debates before the Commission, it became law in July 2008. Officially, all licensed liquor establishments in the city were forced to move from a 2 a.m. closing to a 1 a.m. closing time.

City leaders were fairly resolute that the rollback had been successful initially, providing reduced calls to the police in the overnight shift. There was no doubt that problems lessened when the rollback became law, but a group of restaurant and bar owners never seemed to give up their cause. They routinely challenged the rollback, and many believe their day might have finally come with new Rizzo Administration as Rizzo has frequently been in favor of revisiting the policy. In fact, many believe a recent mayoral call for the resignations of Marra and Henneberry had everything to do with those Commissioners not being willing to make a change to the rollback.

In any case, business owners have been consistent in their contention that losing the extra hour of business has killed them.

And Guinasso thinks it just might have killed some good businesses, such as the former Maggio’s Restaurant and the former Sealand Restaurant.

She said that she voted for the rollback, along with Commissioner Henneberry (Marra was not on the Board at the time), but believes this might be the time to re-think the City’s strict policy.

“What I would like to see is, if my colleagues are willing to listen, that maybe we can come up with a compromise here,” she said. “For me, for it to come to be, it would have to be a one-strike and you’re out policy…That would be the rule – one strike. There would be no three-day or five-day suspensions with this and the good thing is that there is no appealing a rollback of hours on a license. That’s our call entirely.”

One of the major complaints with the rollback – in addition to traditional restaurants and bars – has come from function halls.

Many halls have reported that they have lost wedding banquets and class reunions and other parties due to the fact that Revere’s last call is at 12:30 a.m., which means the functions must end at 1 a.m.

“I have really heard that the function halls have lost business, such as the Mottolo Post,” she said. “People who rent out halls don’t want last call at 12:30 a.m. They would prefer to go up Route 1. People are leaving Revere with their function business. The halls aren’t getting the bookings they used to get before the last call was at 12:30 a.m. It’s really affecting the function business.”

As an antidote, Guinasso said she would like to look towards a lock-down format, where the doors of a licensed establishment lock at 12:30 a.m. or 1 a.m., but the establishment continues to operate until 2 a.m.

She said she explored that idea with the Dockside of Malden, which has such a rule in place. She said that by all indications, the policy has worked there.

Somewhere along that line of thinking, Guinasso said she could envision some compromise that could make everyone happy.

Meanwhile, she said she is prepared to take a lot of heat in opening an old wound.

“I think it will be a 50-50 thing,” she said. “A lot of residents are going to be upset with me. I think I’m going to take a lot of heat for this position, but if they can bear with where I would like to go, maybe we can come to a better conclusion. Just drive down our streets and see what’s happening. I’m not secluded from these areas. I live around all kinds of bars and restaurants. I have Billy Tse’s and The Cove right near me. I am affected too, but I think we might be able to do something good if we’re open to revisiting this.”

Guinasso added that, if her colleagues were amiable to the idea, she would like to see some compromise position in place before the summer months begin.

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