Select Board Denies Request To Sell Squire-branded Beer Downtown

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Business

The select board last week denied a package store license for the Squire Shop, which wanted to sell Squire-branded beer.  TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – The prospect of The Squire selling cold beer in its Main Street shop did not sit well with members of the select board.

Concerned that customers might drink the Squire-branded beer in public, the board voted unanimously last week not to grant a beer and wine package store license to the shop, which is across the street from the popular tavern and restaurant.

Squire owner Todd Hearle said he wanted to be able to sell four-packs of Squire Lager in cans at the 488 Main St. shop, which opened last year and sells Squire-branded merchandise as well as other gift items. The cans would be kept in a cooler and would be the only alcohol sold in the shop, he said.

Select board members had numerous problems with the request, and several downtown business owners and members of the public also spoke out against it.

“We are a family town and no good can come of this,” said resident Elaine Gibbs.

Marianne Lewis, owner of Violet's, located next door to the Squire Shop, said cold beer appeals to those who want to drink it right away. Select board members also had that concerned, wondering if purchasers would open the cans and imbibe in public. Drinking from an open container of alcohol in public is prohibited by town bylaw.

There is often a line of people waiting to get into the Squire tavern. Select board member Jeff Dykens said over the Memorial Day weekend, there was “a heck of a crowd” at the popular bar. Someone in line realizing they could get cold beer across the street could buy a four-pack at the Squire Shop and drink it while waiting to get into the tavern, Select Board Chair Shareen Davis said. Hearle said the line is supervised by his security staff, who would make sure that doesn't happen.

But David Oppenheim, owner of the Wayside Inn and Wild Goose Tavern, said people aren't likely to buy cold beer and hold on to it as it gets warmer. “That's a joke,” he said. People will find a place to drink the cold beer, in a park or on the street. “It's not hard to hide a can of beer,” he said.

Select board members were also concerned about giving a beer and wine package store license to a Main Street gift shop. While there have been package stores on Main Street in the past, they sold alcohol only while the Squire Shop is more of a gift/souvenir shop, said Select Board member Dean Nicastro. The only way the shop can sell any alcohol is with a package store license.

If the Squire Shop is given a beer and wine license, other Main Street shops could make similar requests to sell their own branded beer or wine, said Sandy Wycoff, owner of The Chatham Clothing Bar. “I'm not sure that's the direction we want to go,” she said.

There are six package stores in town, and Oppenheim suggested those establishments were the best place to sell Squire Lager. Hearle said the lager is brewed by Devil's Purse Brewing in Dennis and is served on tap at the restaurant. Under state law, restaurants are not allowed to sell alcohol for off premise consumption. During the COVID-19 emergency declaration, restaurants were allowed to sell drinks packaged to go with take-out meals, but that provision will expire on June 15.

“I think we've got to think about the milieu down there,” Dykens said, referring to the downtown business district. “It would open up a Pandora's box with the rest of the retail establishments downtown.”

Select board member Peter Cocolis agreed. “It just doesn't fit within the character of Chatham,” he said.

“I respect why they're asking for this,” said Select board member Cory Metters, “but we need to protect our downtown business district.”

The board voted unanimously not to grant the package store license.