GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

August 13, 2013

Editorial: Action's proximity cannot cloud liquor store license

The location of the new Good Harbor Liquors, next door to Gloucester’s famed Crow’s Nest bar and, more importantly, within roughly 500 feet of the Action Inc. shelter on Main Street has raised some eyebrows, including with City Council President Jackie Hardy.

But its perhaps most telling to note, as Action Executive Director did last week, that the shelter itself did not question or oppose the Licensing Board’s decision to grant approval. And it’s important to note that neither Michele Harrison, who chairs the Licensing Board, or Police Chief Leonard Campanello have documented any complaints that the store’s location has somehow exacerbated drinking among those who call on the shelter as a home for the night.

That indeed is a tribute to Good Harbor Liquors owner David Hanna, who has put in place some sophisticated security provisions to guard against theft, while also ensuring that the store’s staff has received specialized “training for intervention procedures” on how not to serve minors or intoxicated people.

Does the store’s location make some residents uncomfortable? Perhaps. But, as Harrison noted, state regulations indicate that no establishment selling alcohol should be placed within 500 feet of a church or school – but say nothing about public shelters. That may be a mandate worthy of lawmakers’ attention, but certainly could not come into play in this case.

Also, the store’s location may play into some shelter critics’ concerns that Action is a “wet” shelter — one which does not automatically cast out anyone who has been drinking. Yet monitoring that issue is the responsibility of the shelter, not of Hanna and his associates, who, by all counts, have identified a business opportunity, fulfilled all of the city’s licensing requirements, and gained all of the approvals.

To their credit, Harrison and her Licensing Board colleagues rightfully recognized that, considering the lack of applicable regulations, the store deserved approval.

“It’s a free market,” she said – and she’s right.

Yes, the shelter is close by. But neither the state nor city view that as a prohibitive condition, the new store’s owners clearly earned their city approvals — and we wish them the best in going forward.

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