By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Select Board heard from several liquor store owners at its meeting on 12/4/23, asking the board to delay implementation of the Nip Ban bylaw that goes into effect on 1/1/24. Town Administrator Angie Lopes Ellison told the board that they do not have the authority to delay the bylaw that was passed at Town Meeting. She said the town can help business owners meet the deadline in a variety of ways, including by being “creative” in selling supplies.
The owners said they have a lot of inventory that they have deeply discounted, but some things just do not sell that quickly.
Mark Riley, who owns two liquor stores in Fairhaven called the Nip Ban a “sneak attack.”
He said in Mattapoisett they asked how it would affect businesses before they voted and that is how Fairhaven should have done it.
Mr. Riley said it would take about $1 million from businesses in town.
He said they will not be able to exhaust their inventory before January 1. For some, he said, it will be nine months. They could not buy less, he said, because they have to buy in bulk to make money.
He said the town asked how removing plastic bags would affect businesses, and they should have done that with the nip ban.
“It was a sneak attack,” he said, because they just wanted the ban.
SB Chairperson Leon Correy told Mr. Riley he got off on the “wrong foot” by making accusations. The vote happened in May, he said.
Mr. Riley apologized and said alcohol cannot be bought on consignment. He said if they knew ahead of time, there were options they could have pursued. He said a bill in the state legislature would put a deposit on nips, as with soda cans.
He noted that it was a close vote. If the owners had been given some time to get their information out, he said, it might have gone differently.
He said the owners were asking for two things: first, to delay implementation of the ban; second, to vote again.
“There is a solution besides just banning,” he said.
Mr. Correy asked if there was a way to delay it, but Ms. Ellison said Town Counsel had already weighed in and said only Town Meeting can change it.
She said enforcement of the ban, was by the police department.
Mr. Riley asked if a violation would go before the SB.
Ann Richard, who is the chairperson of the Sustainability Committee, said she was concerned that they seemed to be discussing the possibility of not enforcing the bylaw.
She said she wanted to be sure that as of January 1, all liquor stores would not be selling nip bottles.
“Yes, that’s what she said,” said Mr. Correy.
“Just making sure,” said Ms. Richard.
Later, during the public comment period, another liquor store owner reiterated what Mr. Riley had told the board. He said they were selling at a loss to get rid of inventory, but they needed more time.
“What do we do as a store to take on this loss,” he asked. “That’s all we really need is more time. Just banning it just harms the businesses.”
Mr. Correy suggested he speak to Ms. Ellison to figure out next steps.
Also during the public comment period, Patrick Carr, an Associate Member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, took the podium to again advocate for the board to reconsider their vote to make Andrew Romano a full time member of the ZBA instead of Mr. Carr.
Mr. Correy reminded him he had two minutes to speak during public comment.
Mr. Carr responded that his comments would take more than two minutes.
“This is important,” he said.
He asked SB member Stasia Powers why she recused herself from the vote at the previous meeting.
Ms. Powers said that Mr. Romano and she both raise funds for the same nonprofit.
Mr. Correy told Mr. Carr that public comment was not supposed to be interactive.
“I need to establish exactly what happened at this meeting,” said Mr. Carr and also the June 5 meeting, and that involves Ms. Powers recusal. He asked her if the fundraising was before June 5.
“Am I on trial,” asked Ms. Powers.
Mr. Carr said that “these things have to be known.”
Mr. Correy and Mr. Carr went back and forth a bit. Mr. Correy told Mr. Carr that he asked to be on the agenda, and he would be on an agenda, not necessarily the next meeting. Mr. Correy said it was a full agenda, noting it was ten o’clock.
“There’s a degree of patience,” said Mr. Correy. “And there’s a degree of like, this entitlement in this town is getting ridiculous.”
He said just because someone says so is not how it works.
“If you want it to work that way, then you can run and get on this side,” said Mr. Correy. “Otherwise you can just be patient like anybody else who has ever asked to be on the agenda.”
He said he had told Mr. Carr he would be on the next agenda.
“I’m not going to lie about that,” said Mr. Correy. “You can’t come in public comment and start interrogating members of the Select Board. That’s not how public comment works.”
Mr. Carr said none of that was ever explained to him. He was told he would be on public comment.
“I never told you that,” said Mr. Correy.
“You didn’t tell me that. You didn’t tell me anything,” said Mr. Carr, explaining he got an email from staff telling him. “So I’m not here trying to take over your meeting at ten o’clock at night, and I’m patient.”
He asked when he could bring it up again.
Mr. Correy said it would be on the agenda at the next meeting.
Mr. Carr is also an elected member of the Planning Board. In his candidate statement in the 3/23/23 issue of the Neighb News, Mr. Carr wrote, “Please note, if elected, I will resign my positions on the ZBA and EDC and concentrate solely on the planning board.”
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