Mayor’s liquor license veto on shaky grounds

MAYOR DONALD POHLMAN’S VETO of a class B liquor license for the Generations inter-generational center was an ill-advised attempt to nail the lid back on a Pandora’s Box the City Council opened up several years ago.

That was when the council first decided to issue the retail liquor licenses to two non-profit entities – the Plymouth Arts Center and the Eagles Club.

Prior to that, such licenses were reserved for taverns, bars, restaurants and other such retail, for-profit establishments.

Liquor licenses are limited in number by state law, and the license for Generations – which the council denied in April, then reconsidered and issued last month – would be the last one available in the city until the population grows to more than 8,500.

The mayor may have been attempting to keep that last license available for some new business in the future, but his reasoning – in light of the council’s previous action to open licenses up for non-profits – is largely on shaky ground.

One reason for the denial was the the license “does not coincide with the public purpose and mission of the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition” and “the city … did not anticipate that this facility would have alcohol sales.”

Liquor sales do not coincide with the public purpose or mission of the Plymouth Arts Center, for one example, so why was that license not vetoed by the mayor when it was issued by the council?

PIC officials from the very beginning have been open about their desire to make their facility available for groups, including events where alcohol would be available, and city officials should have been aware of that all along.

Another reason the mayor gave for his veto was that “the primary purpose of the facility and mission of the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition is not substantially related to liquor sales or a restaurant.”

Again, that precedent has already been vitiated by the granting of licenses to other non-profit groups whose primary purpose is not substantially related to liquor sales or a restaurant.

The mayor also cited a city ordinance requiring that the Police Department be notified of all events open to underage people at a licensed facility and proscribing alcohol sales or service until the next day following such events.

That ordinance is indeed on the books and the mayor is right in saying that “ignoring the law is not the way to get around the ordinance.”

But the ordinance has not been enforced for years and indeed is probably impractical to enforce.

Does the Eagles Club or the Plymouth Arts Center notify the police of every event on its premises which underage people can and do attend? Do any of the restaurants or other establishments with liquor licenses do so? Do they suspend liquor sales or service for 24 hours after any such events? Does the Police Department have the time – or personnel – to fully enforce that ordinance?

The mayor also raised the issue of state law prohibiting a licensed premise within 300 feet of a main entrance of a public school, noting that the Generations center houses a day care and the Head Start program.

It’s a valid point, but state law allows the city the discretion to waive that proscription, which the council opted to do.

It raises the question again of how to treat liquor licenses for nonprofit groups. We have to say again, as we did when the issue first came up in the city, that it is something that the state Legislature should probably look at addressing in the law.

Meanwhile, PIC officials have made clear their need to maximize income from the Generations building in order to keep this one-ofa kind facility financially viable. It would be a shame to see this wonderful center fail due to short-sighted blind application of rules that have already been bent or ignored by the city in previous cases.

At issue:

Generations license veto
Bottom line:

Readers Comments

Finally a great, objective,
Submitted by on Tue, 2014-08-12 14:09.
Finally a great, objective, factually correct article about this whole matter. Thank you to the Plymouth Review. I would also like to state that at no time did any PIC Board member state that we would "ignore" the antiquated law, that is not true and we have asked the Mayor to retract that statement.
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