GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 18, 2012

Bill calling for grocery beer-wine license on governor's desk

By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The legislation that would grant a beer and wine retail license for a Rockport grocery store has reached the final stages of the state and local approval process. But, even with an additional potential location arising, no grocers have struck move-in deals.

The legislation, approved by both the state House and Senate, sits on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk awaiting his signature, or lack thereof, to become law. If the governor fails to sign within 10 days, the legislation becomes law even without the signature. So, the law is sure to take effect unless it draws a veto from the governor.

Then, it will be the Rockport voters’ turn to decide whether the beer and wine retail license that many say will help lure a grocery store that fits the town.

Erin Battistelli, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, said at the Tuesday meeting that the license could be granted to a grocery store located anywhere in Rockport. Selectmen were unable to think of another existing building in Rockport that could house a full-service grocery store. But the Cape Ann Tool Co. property’s new owner, Michael J. Rauseo said Wednesday that he would consider adding a grocer to the deemed commercial space in the building plans.

“We would consider any use, including a grocery store, that could do well and be a good neighbor. The space is available and has not yet been leased,” Rauseo said.

The owner of the former longtime IGA store property, Jay Smith, said the state’s progress on the alcohol license legislation was an “encouraging sign” for him and for potential grocery vendors. Smith has said vendors are interested in the spot, but the field of potentials has yet to be narrowed.

“Anybody looking at the business is going to be looking at what they can sell, and this (alcohol) is just one more piece. The more diverse the product line, the more they can sell and the better they do,” Smith said.

Smith and his family have been circulating an online survey for Cape Ann residents that inquires about what people are seeking from a potential grocer. He said the survey has been successful in collecting information, and at least one thing is clear so far:

“I wasn’t alone in missing the grocery store there. It’s loud and clear in the survey results that people are very, very anxious to see that spot filled,” Smith said.

Rockport can call a special town vote 35 days after acquiring the license from the state, or the town can arrange a ballot vote on the beer and wine sales license at the scheduled town election in May.

“From a selfish point of view I’d love to see an early vote, but I also live in the town and pay taxes here,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t want the town to go crazy doing something when it’s going to be really expensive for the town’s people.”

Selectman Paul Murphy said the only reason to call a special vote would be if a vendor were ready to move into town.

“What would dictate a special election would be if they had someone to move into the supermarket, and they don’t.” Murphy said.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.