Different Clientele: Neighborhood Council Split on Support For New Bunker Hill Packie License

By Adam Swift

The owner of Sanchez Market at 160 Bunker Hill St. is looking to expand from beer and wine sales to a full liquor license. 

At last week’s meeting of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, opinion was split on if Bunker Hill Street needs another liquor store. 

Some residents and council members spoke in favor of the request, citing the desire to support a local business by allowing the market to better serve its primarily Spanish-speaking clientele. But others, including the owners of two nearby liquor stores, spoke against allowing another full package-store license in the neighborhood, noting that the area is already well served and warning against going back to the bad old days when Charlestown was known for having more bars and package stories per capita than any place else in the country.

“This is a completely different clientele,” said attorney Scott Holmes, representing Sanchez Market owner Angel Acosta. “This is a Spanish-based food store that has been selling beer and wine without incident for five years.”

Holmes said the owner is seeking the all-alcohol license in part to increase his income and support his family, as well as to better serve the Spanish-speaking residents in the area.

“It’s easy to say no more liquor stores in Charlestown, but this is part of an effort to raise his kids,” said Holmes. “This is a prominent store for the Spanish-speaking people in the neighborhood, and he is working there seven days per week.”

The approval to allow the full-liquor license comes down to a hearing before and approval of the City’s License Board. As of last week’s Neighborhood Council meeting, Holmes said a date has not been set for that hearing.

Holmes also noted that Mayor Martin Walsh is planning on adding five additional liquor licenses for use in Charlestown over the next five years, although several Council members noted that those licenses will most likely be targeted for restaurant liquor licenses.

Chairman Tom Cunha said Charlestown has faced a number of stigmas over the years.

“One of the things that I’m not proud of is that we were written up in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for having the most liquor stores and bars of any mile in the United States,” said Cunha. “That bothers me, and I always vote against any additional liquor-selling establishment … I understand that people feel there is a cultural need to be served in their own language, but my concern here, and will always be, like we do not need another marijuana store, we don’t need another liquor store, and that’s my opinion.”

Council member Karson Tager said he supported the market’s efforts to get a full liquor license.

“If the business wants to sell alcohol, let them sell alcohol,” said Tager. “I don’t want people to get in their car and drive down to Total Wine, that is decimating local business. I think it’s crazy if we do not support local business.”

But several local liquor store owners said there are already locally owned stores in the neighborhood serving the community.

“I have three people who work for me who speak fluent Spanish, so I do not see the concern,” said Paul Kelly, owner of the Bunker Hill Liquor Store at 200 Bunker Hill St. “We’re not big corporations. Years ago, you were trying to get rid of liquor stores, and now you want to revert … and open up the market.”

Since a hearing date had not been set for the all-alcohol liquor license, the council decided to hold an additional hearing on the issue after a hearing is scheduled.

•In other business, it was no surprise that several conversations came up concerning traffic. 

Council member Ed Grace updated the committee on work to the North Washington Street Bridge, stating that by January, traffic would be rerouted to a temporary bridge.

In addition, Grace said when work is underway on the bridge, Boston EMS has committed to having two ambulances full-time on the Charlestown side of the bridge so that if one goes on a call, there is a backup ambulance in place.

“When construction is in full swing, we will have the two,” he said.

•Council member Judy Brennan asked that a request be made to the police to provide a detail at the Tobin Bridge and Rutherford Avenue, hoping it can ease the traffic congestion and flaring tempers there.

•Council member Mary Boucher requested a public meeting be held, most likely early next year, to address the Medford-Bunker Hill connector street program.

•And in December, the council will have further discussion about increasing elected council terms from two to three years, although council member Bill Galvin said he is opposed to the change.

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