WEST NEWBURY — Owners of a new take-out restaurant on Main Street won't be able to sell wine and beer with their food.
At a public hearing held last Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed to deny an off-premise liquor license to Seriously Good Pizza and Pasta, which is set to open soon at 33 Main St.
Objections raised by abutters — including the Pentucket Regional School Committee —were a key factor in the board's decision. The district's secondary school campus is located directly across Route 113 from the restaurant.
The school board issued a letter to selectmen opposing the request and school board member Jill Eichhorst spoke against it at the public hearing.
Owner Bruce Irving told selectmen his plan was to take an unused building in town and offer the community something a little more upscale than the typical pizza and sub shop fare. His idea was to provide a "one-stop shopping" experience where customers could pick up a decent dinner that used local farm produce when available, along with a bottle of wine paired specifically to go with the meal.
The strictly take-out business would be open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Parking would be limited to the front of the building, picnic tables now there would be removed, and surveillance cameras would be installed to monitor all areas outside the restaurant.
Irving said he did not feel it would be the type of restaurant that would become a hangout for students from high school and middle schools across the street.
"No matter if you like it or not, you're going to have kids there," said Selectman Glenn Kemper.
An owner of a small food service business himself, Kemper said he thought Irving's business model was sound, but he just had a problem with the location. He'd prefer to see the restaurant located within the business district.
Selectman Dick Cushing said his concern was that the place would essentially wind up functioning as a package store.
"That's not the goal that I have. I don't want to own a package store," said Irving. He stressed that he would only be offering a very limited selection of wines specifically chosen to complement the meals on his menu.
He acknowledged, however, "if someone wants to come in and buy a bottle of wine, I'm not going to say no."
Police Chief Lisa Holmes said she had "serious reservations" about the fact that legally Irving could have 18-year-old employees selling alcohol so close to the middle and high schools.
"Things are bound to happen. My job is to prevent bad things from happening," she said.
"We don't want to see any kid consume alcohol. We're concerned parents just like everyone else," Irving said.
Several abutters attended the meeting or sent in letters to oppose the plan. They cited concerns over the potential for under-aged drinking, for the precedent set by issuing a liquor license that would then stay with the property whenever it was sold, and for the impact on their property values.
"I didn't sign up to live next to a liquor store," said Katie Lyons, 35 Main St.
"It's an accident waiting to happen," said her neighbor Stacy Smith, "Please think about the children, about the teenagers."
When asked on his way out of the meeting if he still intended to open his restaurant at the site, Irving responded, "We're going to try."
The board also took up several other agenda items during the meeting, including:
A review of the annual priority list presented by the Capital Improvements Committee. The order of priorities is $170,000 for state-reimbursable Chapter 90 road work; $371,000 for the items on the DPW's road improvement plan; $20,000 for the water meter replacement program; and $140,000 for a new sidewalk snowplow. The panel also recommends appropriating $200,000 into the Stabilization account.
A lengthy discussion with Rick Parker and Ann Craig of the Energy Advisory Committee about a report from Merrimack Valley Planning Consortium on a fatal flaw assessment conducted for possible solar panel installation on the old town landfill off Georgetown Road. Concerns were raised about maintaining the integrity of the cap on the landfill.
Permission for the building inspector to obtain outside legal counsel to handle potential legal issues associated with development of a 13th lot in a subdivision off Coffin Street. One of the parties involved is a former client of Town Counsel Michael McCarron.
A commendation from Holmes regarding outstanding work performed by public safety dispatcher Judy Romano during a recent medical emergency in which she used "extreme professionalism" to help a woman cope with the collapse of her husband until police officers Barry Coker, Dan Cena and Sean O'Keefe arrived. Holmes said the caller was understandably distraught and Romano was able to get her to focus enough to provide the critical information the dispatcher then relayed to first responders. She conducted Emergency Medical Dispatch instruction and was able to guide the caller in performing CPR until police arrived. The officers continued performing CPR until the paramedics arrived. "These types of calls are both mentally and physically exhaustive to individuals and much praise and thanks goes to them all for their response and actions during this particular call," said Holmes.
Among the items planned for the board's March 23 meeting is a review with the Finance Committee of the budget for next year and a discussion of the transition process to replace Finance Director Tracy Blais, whose contract expires June 30 and was not renewed.
Five residents are needed to serve on a new Affordable Housing Committee. If interested, contact Kris Pyle in the selectmen's office, 978-363-1100, ext. 115.