A businesswoman operating Braintree Market 'N Deli at the corner of Liberty and Grove streets was denied a package store license for an adjoining store on Tuesday, during a hearing marked by tension beween the manager's spotless reputation and neighborhood support and officials' concerns over traffic and public need.
The Board of License Commissioners voted 4-1 to deny Kana Beer & Wine at 978 Liberty St. a wine & malt license, with the prevailing members pointing to a saturation of liquor stores in the area and the potential worsening of traffic in what is already an accident-prone area of Braintree.
Refusal came despite board members' acknowledgement that manager Hansawati D. Patel, who also runs a package store in Somerville, has a solid business reputation. Neighbor David Duffy said he visits Hansawati's market and sandwich shop every day, arguing in favor of the management and representing in person what in total were many letters and more than 100 petition signatures in favor of the proposal.
"They're good people and they run a tight ship," said Duffy, a retired postal worker who lives on Grove Street.
Board chair Joe Powers spoke out strongly against the application. For one, he questioned attorney Arthur Pearlman's contention that the new business would not drive more customer traffic. Pearlman argued that Kana would not be competing with Liberty Liquors in the plaza across the street because it would have a more limited beer and wine selection, and would instead draw people who would already be stopping by the market.
"I'm skeptical at best when I hear, 'If you let us do this there's not going to be more business,'" Powers said. "The purpose of business is to gain business and more of it."
Powers' traffic concerns were joined by other board members and Town Engineer Bob Campbell, who said that the state-run intersection is due for improvements like widening the road for turn lanes and adding handicap ramps.
There have been 40 accidents there in the past three years, Police Chief Paul Frazier said, far exceeding the threshold for troublesome intersections that Campbell said was five per year.
"It's one of the high-crash locations in town," Campbell said.
Yet a cleaner operated in the location for 11 years, Pearlman said, suggesting that traffic would not be higher for the package store. "This is not going to be some kind of large liquor store," he said.
Building Inspector Russell Forsberg was the lone member in favor of granting the license, following a roll call of votes on eight different factors that such boards must consider.
The members split on the factors, approving in terms of neighborhood views, noise, size and reputation of the operator, but denying when it came to public need, number of existing locations, traffic and type of operation.
Powers, in explaining his denial vote, said that even the disapproval of one factor was enough for him to go against the application. For him, it was the lack of public need. The chair used as an example a vote in Massachusetts and in Braintree to not allow beer and wine permits for supermarkets.
"I draw on that to say that this town and its inhabitants do not want convenience stores to be liquor stores," Powers said, expressing concern that the stores might combine in the future despite attorney Pearlman's assurances otherwise.
In other business, Turtle Creek Winery received a Special Farmer Winery License to be used at the weekly Braintree Farmers Market. The winery can appear at each event Sept. 17 through Oct. 29 and on Nov. 19, but the farmers market will actually rotate them with Coastal Vineyards, which received the first of the Braintree permits in July. There are no more such licenses available.
Also, Gold Rush, a precious metals dealer, received a license from the board for its location at the South Shore Plaza.