The Winchester Town Center has seen an increase in activity and businesses over the last year.
About two years ago, a number of Winchester families went to the looking for a way to increase the number of restaurants in town. The result was an update in the town’s liquor license and the eventual creation of the
“The town center is one of Winchester’s most valuable assets,” said selectmen chair, Thomas Howley. “We’re all concerned about the strength and vibrancy of the center.”
Prior to 2009, the town’s liquor license stated that an establishment couldn’t serve alcohol unless the customer was seated at a table. That has since been changed to state, “No person is to be served alcoholic beverages in any seating area whose intention is not to dine.”
On Monday night, the discussed updating and changing the town’s liquor license.
Selectman Forrest Fontana had suggested updating the wording to say that customers can order two drinks before needing to eat.
“I feel as though this is a more definitive statement, while allowing a broader consumption,” Fontana said. “It’s more definitive to have a two-drink minimum before customers can dine.”
However, members of the Chamber of Commerce that were in attendance, and the restaurant owners felt as though changing the wording would confuse customers and potentially drive business out of town.
“In my opinion if you do that, people will think it’s a two-drink maximum,” said Jim Covino, one of the owners of the Black Horse Tavern, along with his wife, Kim. “It would be detrimental to the downtown restaurants. Customers will start to go to Woburn and Lexington, where restrictions aren’t so strict.”
Judy Manzo, owner of , and representing the Chamber of Commerce, said that the current liquor license wording is sufficient.
“The word’s been spreading that Winchester is the place to come,” Manzo said. “The chamber feels that a change in regulations at this point in time would be a mistake. We’ve added a lot of new businesses the last year and a half.”
After hearing members of the chamber and restaurant owners disagree with the proposed change, the Board of Selectmen decided to keep the current license in place.
But Winchester resident, Patrick Fortin, who also worked on the committee that created the current license, advised the board that they should not request these hearings on rules and regulations too often.
“These business owners have to make major decisions,” Fortin said. “To fiddle with regulations every time there’s a debate, would be a mistake. You have to be careful that every year or every two years these owners don’t need to come in front of the board. They’ll start to look at other spaces.”