PAWTUCKET — With some neighborhood concerns still unresolved, the ownership of Blackstone Wine & Spirits has appealed a denial of a liquor license transfer made by the City Council's Board of License Commissioners for a new location at 275 Newport Ave. to the state's Department of Business Regulation, Liquor Control Division.
PLW MA Inc., doing business as Blackstone Wine & Spirits, had requested the transfer of a Class A liquor license from its current location at 1179 Central Avenue to a vacant storefront at 275 Newport Ave. However, at a Dec. 8 meeting of the City Council, sitting as the Board of License Commissioners, that motion was unanimously denied.
City Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. had made the motion to deny based on his belief that the Blackstone Wine & Spirits owners and the abutters and neighbors had failed to reach a satisfactory accommodation to concerns that had been raised about increased noise, traffic and safety issues.
Vitali noted that he and former District 3 City Councilor Henry Kinch Jr. had previously attended a neighborhood meeting held at the proposed package store. Residents of Courtney Avenue, which runs behind the location, were particularly concerned about trucks making deliveries on the residential street. Others said they worried about the safety of motorists and pedestrians visiting the other stores in the small plaza, which includes a Walt's Roast Beef, Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, and the seasonal Rita's Ice Cream.
Noting that Rita's Ice Cream is directly attached to the proposed location, Vitali had said he was additionally concerned about having a liquor store so close to an ice cream shop where children and youths gather and hang around at in the summer months.
Previously, the board had also tried to block the license transfer on the additional grounds of there being an “over saturation” of liquor stores in the immediate area. However, that argument was overruled by the Department of Business Regulation as being a valid reason for denying the license, and the matter was remanded back to the City Council with the issue of the truck deliveries left to be worked out between the parties.
At the Dec. 8 meeting, Kinch and Vitali both said they felt that the issues had not been resolved to the neighbors' satisfaction. Vitali said that at a subsequent hearing that had been held at the Liquor Control Board, the points that had been raised about noise, safety, and the concerns about the package store being adjacent to an ice cream stand were also rejected, leaving the delivery accommodations being the only matter left to be decided.
In an appeal filed on Dec. 22 with the Department of Business Regulation's Liquor Control Division, attorney Michael E. Sendley, representing PLW MA Inc., contended that the decision by the city's Board of License Commissioners to deny the request for the transfer “is not supported by legally competent evidence, is in violation of the laws and Constitution of the United States and the state of Rhode Island,” and is “contrary to the evidence as submitted and the applicable laws.” Additionally, he wrote that the decision “constitutes a clear abuse of the Board's discretion and is arbitrary and capricious and not supported by evidence.” Sendley concluded with a request that a hearing be held on the appeal at the earliest convenience.
Vitali said this week that while he personally still has concerns about the location, and particularly the proximity to Rita's Ice Cream, he noted that with the liquor Control Board's rejection of the various points that had been raised in opposition, there isn't much more that the City Council can do. “Obviously, there is a course of action they are allowed to take,” said Vitali.