The Boston Licensing Board could vote tomorrow whether to allow Total Wine to open a 23,000-square-foot store in the South Bay mall, where the OfficeMax used to be.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey and City Councilors Frank Baker, Michael Flaherty and Annissa Essaibi George all opposed the proposal at a hearing today, citing opposition among nearby residents. City Councilor Julia Mejia had earlier submitted written opposition to the proposal, but did not attend the hearing or send a representative.
Also opposing: The Massachusetts Addiction Prevention Alliance, which says a large liquor store is the absolute wrong thing to put at the edge of Methadone Mile.
Alliance President Heilman said the giant store would just prove too much of a lure for local people with additions and predicted that 75% of the store's business would be among people who would drink two handles of hard liquor a day if they could.
Nonsense, Total Wines attorney Patricia Farnsworth said: The store will not sell either nips or 40-oz. malt bottles and all the workers are connected by ear pieces to quickly roust any troublemakers - all of whom would have to come through a single entrance with a video screen right there showing that they're under surveillance while in the store. Also: Managers would always be on the store floor, alert to any potential trouble, in part because they won't have offices.
"It's just scare tactics," she said. "It's unfortunate that the electeds have voiced opposition, but I think they're listening to the wrong arguments, to be quite honest."
Legally, the board can only consider the "public need" for a liquor license at the location, not the potential impact on existing liquor stores.
Farnsworth and a Total Wines official said part of the need is that Boston in general and Dorchester in particular are growing, as shown by recent Census figures.
Need for a liquor store at the specific South Bay location, stocked with hundreds of different types of beers, wines and spirits, is shown by the license the mall Stop & Shop used to have for a liquor aisle - a license the supermarket sold to an online delivery service earlier this year.
However, that might have been the wrong argument to use for the current licensing board, two of whose members initially voted to grant Stop & Shop that license but now regret having done so.
"To be honest, that's one of the votes I regret," board member Keana Saxxon said, adding she was glad to see Stop & Shop sell the license because the liquor aisle never seemed to work well.
Fellow board member Liam Curran agreed. "When it came up to remove that license, I was happy to see that go," he said.
At a hearing on the supermarket's proposed sale, an attorney for the delivery service said the sale would actually be performing a public service by removing a liquor-license from the South Bay area.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce was not on the board when it voted to let Stop & Shop sell alcohol.
Other opponents of the proposed big-box store, who include a small-business association concerned about the impact on existing nearby liquor stores in Dorchester, the South End and South Boston, said the mall's current owner had once agreed to never allow a packie in the mall.
Farnsworth said that, too, was wrong, that there is no such agreement.
Joe Rull, who worked for the mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services at the time the mall went in under Tom Menino and who now works for a consulting group representing small businesses, said that's only because residents and officials at the time - he mentioned then Councilors Jimmy Kelley and Maureen Feeney - thought a handshake was good and so never sought to have the agreement put in writing.
Rull submitted signatures of some 2,000 nearby residents opposed to the proposal. In response to a question from Joyce about how the signatures were collected, he said they were mostly from people going to the polls during the September preliminary elections. He said the group collected some signatures at South Bay itself and might have gotten more there, except security guards spotted them and told them to leave.
Total Wine submitted 300 signatures in favor of the proposal. Also backing it is the Newmarket Business Association.