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Wegman's seeks law change on supermarket alcohol sales

Posted by Tom Coakley  January 31, 2014 03:00 PM

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Wegmans in Northborough wants to do what no other supermarket in Massachusetts has done before: sell alcohol to customers both from its shelves and at its café.

But state law forbids anyone with a license to sell liquor as a retailer to also serve it on the same premises.

Wegmans’ solution: Change the law.

“In other states, we can serve alcohol as a complement to the meals we offer customers in our café,” said Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale to Globe West in an e-mailed statement. “We would like to be able to offer the same option to our customers in Massachusetts.”

The push by the Rochester, N.Y.-based supermarket chain could have implications between Boston’s western suburbs.

Wegmans’ Northborough store is currently its only on in Massachusetts. But it plans to open locations in Chestnut Hill in the spring and Burlington in the fall. The company has also proposed a new supermarket at a mixed development at the corner of Brookline Avenue and Kilmarnock Street near Fenway Park.

Wegman's representatives first approached Northborough town officials for permission to allow customers to bring their own alcohol to the supermarket’s 300-seat café in October 2012, Natale said. Town officials said their hands were tied.

“The town suggested that we try to reform the law instead,” she wrote to the Globe.

Wegmans’ proposal already has momentum. On January 22, State Rep. Harold Naughton (D-Clinton) filed legislation that would allow a store to sell alcohol both for retail and consumption. His bill is still under review on Beacon Hill.

If the law changes, under current procedures to obtain a license to serve liquor, Wegmans would first seek permission from Northborough officials for a new license. If the local officials approved, the supermarket would then approach the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for the license, said Jon Carlisle, a spokesman for Treasurer Steven Grossman, who oversees the commission.

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