Financially struggling Cape Ann Brewing Co. yesterday won the right to sell and pour its award-winning beer from its Commercial Street brewery for four hours a day during the three big days of the St. Peter's Fiesta.
But a longtime former member of the St. Peter's Fiesta Committee, who wants to use the empty third floor of the St. Peter's Club building, was denied a five-day pouring license during this year's celebration.
Approved on a 2-1 vote, the Brewing Co.'s license was passionately opposed by residents of the Fort and the St. Peter's Fiesta Committee, who characterized the proposal to sell beer in the shadow of St. Peter's Square and their cherished statue of the patron saint of the fishermen as something of an affront to themselves and Sicilian-Gloucester religious culture.
"We don't need disrespect for our tradition, just so they can make a few bucks from our crowds," said Joseph Palmisano, who said he grew up on the Fort very near where the Brewing Co. opened four years ago to make a beer that has won critical acclaim even as the business ruffled feathers along the Fort — until delivery and trash issues were worked out.
Palmisano wore the distinctive, decorative pin of the Fiesta, which opens for the 81st time in two weeks. He called the application disrespectful to "St. Peter himself."
The anti-brewery crowd filled much of the right side of the Kyrouz Auditorium at City Hall; on the left side was about an equal number of pro-brewery advocates. But both groups were noticeably smaller than they were on Wednesday night when the hearing in a small third-floor room was postponed because hundreds were left in the corridors and the street unable to hear or participate.
"Support your local Fiesta/not the brew pub" placards and the like vied with "Don't pour the local brew down the drain" placards. Chairman Edward Pasquina repeatedly had to herd arguments back to or at least into the neighborhood of the point.
"We can't allow everyone to speak or we'll be here until Fiesta," he noted as the hour-long hearing began.
Michael Beaton, a co-owner of the brewery, said the opposition derived from a desire of residents of the neighborhood, which is zoned for business, to make it residential. His partner, Jeremy Goldberg, said the business was just looking for a boost, and recounted efforts to satisfy neighbor's complaints about the odor of brewing and waste.
He told the board the brewery now ships the waste from the brewing process out of the city.
The brewery didn't get all that its owners wanted, however. The board halved the hours sought from eight (noon to 8 p.m.) to four (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) on Friday to Sunday, June 27 to 29. In addition, the board required the company to have a police officer on duty for the pouring hours.
Afterward, another company officer, account executive T.J. Peckham, said he was not aware that the company will have to pay for eight hours of the off-duty police officer, required by the rules written by the police unions.
Peckham said the company was pleased and would do what it could with the four hours per day of operation to showcase their brew and make some cash.
"We'll take what we can get," said Peckham.
The brewers were rejected in May 2007 when they filed for a full-time pouring license.
After Palmisano's opening statement opposing the license for the last three days of Fiesta, other Fort residents and some from farther away urged the board to bar the pouring of beer so close to homes and the center stage of the Fiesta itself.
Rose Lippicola, a Fort resident, said, "We support Cape Ann Brewing Co. as just that — a brewing company. What I'm opposed to is a bar in the middle of our homes ... 20 feet from my bedroom window."
Shortly after the climactic vote, with the auditorium nearly empty, the board rejected a similar application, by Anthony Giacalone, a longtime and recently retired Fiesta committee member, who had asked for a five-day license during Fiesta to operate a prototype function hall on the third floor of the St. Peter's building.
In 2003, Giacalone and partners put up the brick structure that houses the St. Peter's Club where the original statue of St. Peter, made in 1927 for the first Fiesta, stands in the Rogers Street window until the opening of Fiesta when a religious procession brings it to the altar in the square for the duration of the festivities.
The commission told Giacalone they were concerned that he had no experience with a business that dispenses alcohol. Giacalone said he had a veteran in line to run the five-day showcase for a function hall he said he hoped to place in vacant space at the top of the St. Peter's building.
"I have grown up in Gloucester," he said to suggest he was not naive.
Giacalone expressed understanding at the vote and the urging of the commission to return with a more solid business plan.
Richard Gaines can be reached at email@example.com.