The Boston Licensing Board could decide tomorrow whether to grant Foodies, 230 West Broadway, a beer-and-wine license after rejecting similar requests from the store in the past.
At a hearing today, Foodies attorney Kristen Scanlon said nothing less than the long-term survival of the store, one of just two supermarkets in all of South Boston is at stake, in its request to sell local craft beers and wines that could pair with the prepared meals and other foods Foodies sells.
Scanlon said the store finds itself under increasing competition from both national chains, such as Whole Foods - a mile away in the Ink Block in the South End - and with local markets. She added that the Leon family has invested millions into turning a decrepit old building into a "vibrant" market, one that serves the West Broadway area, which has experienced explosive growth in residential units since Foodies opened in 2010.
"There is nothing on this particular end of South Boston that offers both food and beer and wine," she said, adding the South End Foodies has long sold beer and wine with no problems.
Scanlon acknowledged the presence of Al's Liquors a few steps away, but said that should be no reason to deny Foodies a license, because there are other places in South Boston where alcohol purveyors are across from each other. Besides, she added, Foodies is "a family- run grocery market, it's not just another package store in the neighborhood."
Owner Victor Leon (in photo) estimated the "end caps" and refrigerated units he would use for the beverages would take up 600 square feet of space, out of roughly 8,000 square feet of store space. He said he would not eliminate any food items to make way for the alcohol, just reduce the number of some items on the shelves.
But most local residents and aides to elected officials who testified had a simple retort: No. South Boston already has enough places to procure alcohol and that Foodies should stick to its knitting in food, they said.
"It seems me there's a package store on every corner of the neighborhood," Patrick Hayes of National Street said.
"What we really need is another grocery store," Patricia Walsh of West 6th Street said. "We are basically a food desert but we are filled to the brim with ways to get alcohol." She also asked if the board really wants to approve another liquor license in South Boston what with all the nonsense going on at M Street Beach.
"I just wish we could put an end to this request once and for all so Foodies can focus on food," said Ellen O'Brien, who lives in Dorchester but who works near Foodies.
One resident did support the application. Alix Shapiro of Gold Street said Foodies was a Godsend during the pandemic, it was always well stocked, and she feels an independent store needs every advantage it can get, in this case a beer-and-wine license, to help stave off the bigger chains, like Whole Foods.
Patrick Carney of Al's Liquors voiced his opposition as well, even after the board told him that competition is not a reason the board can use to deny a liquor license. He charged Foodies went out of its way to not notify nearby residents of the latest request for a beer and wine license.
The mayor's office and the offices of City Councilors Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty and Annissa Essaibi George opposed the request. Haley Dillon of the mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services said it could not support a request that was opposed by all of the stores direct neighbors.