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Selectmen Don't Renew Liquor License of Shuttered Sweeney's Retreat

Bankruptcy trustee for popular bar and restaurant asks Board of Selectmen to renew license so it could be auctioned off.

The Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 this week not to renew the full liquor license owned until last fall by Sweeney's Retreat.

That vote was a disappointment to the bankruptcy trustee, who wanted to auction off the full liquor license to raise money to pay off the creditors of Sweeney's Retreat. It is likely to set off a fight before the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and before the federal bankruptcy court.

Kathleen Cruickshank with the law firm of Murphy & King, the trustee for the Sweeney's Retreat bankruptcy, said her firm is "trying to avoid litigation" over the license renewal. "We prefer to work consensually."

The Sweeney's Retreat license, one of 20 the state allocates to Marblehead, came up for renewal on Nov. 30. The trustee did not meet that deadline, but Cruickshank said under bankruptcy law, the trustee has a longer period of time to file for a renewal of the license.

Lisa Mead, the town counsel, disagreed with that interpretation. So the trustee applied for a new license in place of the expired Sweeney's Retreat license. If granted, the trustee would auction off the license to raise money, Cruickshank said.

But the application was incomplete because Sweeney's is closed. So the Selectmen rejected it. Selectman James Nye was not present.

The availability of all-alcohol liquor licenses in Marblehead became a hot topic last fall, when the town's new Mexican restaurant Casa Corona applied for and was granted Marblehead's first ever carry-in alcoholic beverage license. 

An attorney for Casa Corona spoke in favor of the Selectmen granting the new license, because the new Mexican restaurant would like to bid on acquiring it.

Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren said the town would get a fee of $1,500 for a new license. But he said it would be up to the market to determine the value of auctioning off the Sweeney's Retreat license.

The next step for the trustee is to appeal the Marblehead decision to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, Cruickshank said.  

Peter Lake, LAKE Real Estate February 15, 2013 at 05:06 PM
The archaic laws of the commonwealth are to blame for this fiasco. The town's allocated 20 full-alcohol licenses, but suppose for a second there was a 21st restaurant that wanted one. What kind of disaster would befall the town by being able to grant a 21st or a 22nd license? Answer: none. After all, a patron can only drink in one restaurant at a time. No one doubts that excessive alcohol consumption in public can be a problem, as it was during the 19th century when Marcia Selman wrote in the town anthem, in 1888, "from whiskey bondage we will keep her free." Over the years the state's slowly extricated itself from blue laws written hundreds of years ago to protect religious practices. Now you can buy a bottle of aspirin on Sunday. It's time for the state to release its hold on local control over alcohol licenses and let cities and towns make their own decisions about which restaurants can serve a beer or a martini.
Leslie Marquette February 16, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Completely agree with you, Peter. The state should also let go of the control they have over most grocery stores who are not allowed to sell alcohol, either. Crosby's is quite the exception, not the rule. You may recall this was on the state ballot several years ago and missed passing by a narrow margin. More competition is better for the consumer, don't you think ? Leslie Marquette

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