NATICK — The Select Board is moving forward with a plan to review the city’s alcohol policiesdeliberate changes that could make Natick more welcoming to new restaurants and businesses.
The council voted earlier this month to sponsor two items from the fall town meeting, seeking to eliminate seating requirements for liquor license holders – the first of many proposed changes to come.
Over the past few months, an alcohol policy working group has reviewed existing alcohol policies, conducted community outreach and suggest changes.
As part of this work, the group interviewed 149 Natick residents, business owners and community members, most of whom said they were dissatisfied with the current rules and regulations. Many spoke of a desire to attract more diverse restaurants and businesses to Natick – perhaps even a downtown bar.
What has the select committee voted on so far?
At its August 3 meeting, the council voted to sponsor two City Assembly papers, essentially asking the state legislature to authorize Natick to eliminate seat requirements for licensees. alcohol on site.
Currently, malt and wine licensees must have at least 15 seats, while all-alcohol licensees must have 100 seats.
“The number of 100 seats seems arbitrary,” board member Kathryn Coughlin said at a June 15 meeting. “I don’t know why 100 makes it safer for the community if it’s an all-alcohol license, as opposed to beer and wine.”
City administrator Jamie Errickson said he was unsure why the requirement was specifically set at 100, but speculated the rule was intended to encourage restaurants with tables, as opposed to only bar seats.
What other changes could Natick see?
Among the other policies to reconsider, there is that of the city 35:65 alcohol to food ratio, which caps a licensee’s alcohol sales at 35% of gross sales. Opponents argued that the policy discouraged companies from offering more expensive, premium liquors.
“I’ve talked to restaurant owners or multiple restaurant owners who wanted to open a restaurant in Natick, and that and parking were two of the things that scared them off,” Coughlin said on June 15.
The council will hold a public hearing on August 24 to discuss the elimination of the 35% policy, as well as other proposals.
The changes subject to deliberation and decision would take effect immediately and have “a short-term impact on the city’s attractiveness to new and expanding businesses that require on-site licenses to serve alcoholic beverages,” according to a memo. Aug. 3 service of Board Chairman Paul Joseph, who led the liquor policy review.
According to the memo, additional proposals include:
- Establish a type of BYOB license for businesses that primarily focus on preparing and serving food, or other non-food and beverage services (i.e. places where guests can create art and crafts);
- Require in-person liability and response training for servers from Natick businesses, but allow servers working for caterers and similar businesses that fall under a special one-day permit to be certified online or virtually;
- Allows businesses to serve draft beer in pitchers up to 64 ounces for parties of two or more. Groups of more than three people can order additional pitchers, but cannot exceed a ratio of one pitcher for every three guests;
- Consider allowing licensees to offer prepared foods on-site and/or prepared/pre-packaged foods in addition to prepared foods offered by an off-site vendor, such as a food truck.
The Select Committee usually meets at 6:30 p.m. in the Edward H. Dlott Meeting Room at City Hall. Natick Pegasus broadcasts of sessions and agendas with remote access information can be found online at naticktown.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/ in advance.