New members of the city’s Liquor Control Review Board were quickly propelled into discussions about the scope of the city’s liquor laws when the four-member board met the afternoon of Dec. 19. 

Two beer glasses raised in a toast. Credit: Tembela Bohle

Nina Barrett of Bookends & Beginnings, 1712 Sherman Ave., came before the board seeking permission to sell single-size servings of wine and beer once it moves into a new location on Orrington Avenue this winter. 

Those sales, she explained, would be especially handy during events such as book-signings or readings, which, although they increase foot-traffic in the store, don’t necessarily translate into robust sales. 

Barrett described the beverage sales as a possible “enhancement of what we do,” even if they wouldn’t be “a huge revenue generator for us. … I don’t want to run a bar, and my booksellers don’t want to run a bar.”

Such a proposal requires an amendment to the city’s liquor laws. Though the board enthusiastically approved that amendment 4-0—Mayor Daniel Biss, a member of the board, said Bookends and Beginnings is “a business that is pretty beloved” locally—the wording of that proposed change was what flummoxed city staff and the board. 

Assistant City Attorney Brian George—who penned the initial draft of the amendment—said he soon found himself in a quandary: If the amendment reflected Barrett’s situation alone, it would add to the plethora of red tape already inherent in the city’s liquor licensing laws. 

“I didn’t want the ordinance to apply to just one business, but I didn’t want it to apply to every business in town either,” George said, admitting that city staff and council members would likely have to refine the wording. 

Board member Ty Phillips agreed with George: “I don’t love the idea of creating just more red tape.”

Biss urged them to keep the rule “relatively broad” while still designing it “in a way that is not reckless.”

The board also approved liquor licenses for Hokkaido Ramen, 812 Church St.; Fonda, 1735 Benson Ave.; and Hilton Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave.

Hilton Orrington is securing a new liquor license because of a change in ownership. Hilton Management will be in charge of the property through at least 2030, said Matt Scoles, a local attorney for the hospitality firm. 

The restaurant on the premises, Scoles noted, was under separate management. The hotel secured the license for individual “grab ‘n’ go” sales to guests, as well as catering operations Hilton expects to begin in the second half of 2023.

The approvals for Hokkaido Ramen, Fonda and Orrington Hilton must now go before the City Council. The council must approve the licenses in two votes, unless Council Member Clare Kelly (1st Ward), in whose ward the three projects are located, asks the council to take the two votes  simultaneously. Kelly was present for the Dec. 19 meeting and voiced her enthusiasm for the projects, adding that she would propose the simultaneous votes at the council’s Jan. 9 meeting.   

New members of the Liquor Control Review Board include Jeff Joseph and Craig Likhite. 

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