Three Brookline businesses may be claiming the final few liquor licenses in town, if officials have the correct number of licenses in mind.
At last night's Board of Selectmen's meeting, applications for liquor licenses by Taberna de Haro and KooKoo Cafe were put before public hearings. Neither was opposed by members of the community, but the Selectmen still had to conditionally approve one and hold the other.
The Town has a maximum quota of licenses which it can assign, and the number of licenses is dwindling to the final few--which may already be spoken for. Officials believe there are enough licenses for both businesses, plus MJ Ready International Bistro, which applied earlier in the year.
At the April 17 meeting, the Selectmen held their decision on MJ Ready while owners correct some paperwork.
As Selectman Dick Benka put it, "licenses are becoming dear in this community."
Before finalizing decisions from last night, the Board must first determine how many licenses remain.
Taberna de Haro
Deborah Hansen, manager at Taberna de Haro is planning to expand the Beacon Street restaurant to 60 seats from its current 44. Part of this expansion extends to their liquor license, which Hansen hopes to exchange for a full liquor license so they can begin serving brandy and cocktails inspired by the '20s.
The restaurant's current liquor license restricts them to serving only wine and malt beverages. However, there are two types of licenses that may lead to this constraint: a wine and malt beverages license, or an all kinds license restricted to wine and malt beverages.
If it is a wine and malt beverages license, this will free one of those licenses for other restaurants to use. If it is an all kinds, then the Board can lift the wine and malt restriction. Officials will determine which kind of license Taberna de Haro has.
Selectmen Chairperson Betsy DeWitt explained, "If we make a decision that may inadvertently deprive someone of an alcohol license, I am uncomfortable making it."
Despite this confusion, the expansion plans were unanimously approved when voted, and the liquor license was approved on the condition that the town has "such a license to give at this time."
Owners say they envision KooKoo's becoming a european-style bistro which serves beer and wine, similar to cafes in Paris or certain Starbucks locations on the West Coast.
Applicant and owner Ali Mohajerani, who was present for the previous discussion, was informed from the beginning that their license would be continued to a later meeting.
Currently, the Station Street bistro is approved only for seven seats, but Attorney Robert Allen, representing the Cafe, teased possible expansion plans. Allen explained that the owners are eying the space to the right of KooKoo, and working with their landlord to expand their operation to a 49-seat space with a restroom and potentially a liquor license.
Selectman Chairperson Betsy DeWitt explained that, while she understood the plans to expand, "if we voted tonight, I would vote no to giving the license to a seven-seat restaurant."
Other members of the Board--and Allen, speaking as a former Selectman himself--noted that as a seven-seat restaurant, KooKoo's may not secure the license.
Mohajerani and his wife are 12-year veterans of Station Street, which he says has seen a number of businesses come and go, while the Cafe has been running for 6 years, and has expanded to the Main Library. He attributes KooKoo's success to the fact that they are "good neighbors."
"They have shown dedidation," Selectman Ken Goldstein commented, "Ali [Mohajerani] is exactly the kind of businessman we want to see with one of our last licenses."
The Selectmen have continued the license hearing while officials determine exactly how many licenses remain in town.
Bring Your Own
Following the licensing discussion, Selectman Benka posed a question about the town's "bring your own bottle" policy, noting that Cambridge has a similar policy in place.
Selectman DeWitt explained that the Board is "silent on that subject."
She went on to point out that, according to the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC), it is illegal to carry an open container out of a restaurant unless it is inside an ABCC-approved carrier--meaning that without such a carrier, diners would have to finish the bottle in one sitting.