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Wellesley considers letting stores sell alcohol

Posted by Evan Allen  January 28, 2013 05:14 PM

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Wellesley residents may not need to drive out of town to buy a bottle of wine for much longer: a proposal to allow grocery stores to sell wine and malt beverages will be up for a vote before Town Meeting in April.

If the measure passes, the retail sale of alcohol will be allowed in town for the first time in the town’s history.

“Wellesley is surrounded – we’re in the middle of all these towns that are able to sell alcohol,” said Peter Katsikaris, 46, who proposed the petition and whose family owns the Fells Market in Wellesley. “I think it would benefit the town by keeping business in town.”

Currently only restaurants with 50 seats or more can serve alcohol. There have never been package stores in Wellesley, said Town Clerk Kathleen Nagle.

From Prohibition until 1970, when the Wellesley Inn was granted a license to serve all alcohol, said Nagle, Wellesley was a completely dry town. In 1974, she said, restaurants with 100 seats or more were granted licenses to serve all alcohol; in 2012, the number of required seats was reduced to 50.

There has not been a question on the town’s ballot to allow package stores since the early 1970’s.

“No one’s asked,” she said.

If Wellesley Town Meeting votes yes on the petition, it will be joining formerly-dry neighbor Needham in loosening its alcohol laws.

Last November, Needham residents voted to allow package stores to move into town, where formerly only restaurants were allowed to sell alcohol. The Needham Board of Selectmen will consider applicants for the new liquor licenses next month.

“Needham passed, Wellesley should be able to do it also,” said Katsikaris.

The petition would not allow package stores, he said, though the language, including the definition of ‘grocery store’ has not yet been finalized. Katsikaris said he envisions Fells Market, Roche Bros. and Whole Foods being allowed to sell alcohol.

“Not just a little corner store that sells newspaper and groceries,” he said.

The President of the Wellesley Chamber of Commerce said that while she has not yet heard much detail about the proposal, it is one that the chamber preliminarily supports.

“The chamber is looking on this as a very positive step forward,” said Maura M. O’Brien. “I know that our markets would really support this and be interested in this. It would be an important service to offer to our community.”

Katsikaris is scheduled to give a presentation on the petition to the Wellesley Board of Selectmen on Monday, Feb. 4, according to the Chair of the Board.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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