Cindy Levins, co-owner of the Luna Boutique and Moonstruck CafÃ©, said while she accepts the Town Council’s decision to institute a "brownbagging" ordinance, she’s disappointed in the councilâ€™s vote to implement a $400 fee that certain food establishments will now have to pay for the new license.
The Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to enact a brown bagging ordinance. Brown bagging is the term used for the practice of customers bringing their own beer or wine into a restaurant that does not have a liquor license. After much discussion, the Council voted to approve Vice President Linda Callaâ€™s compromise measure to set the fee at $400. The fee was initially set at $500.
â€œWe are disappointed that that Town Council did not vote with the business community, its dedicated business owners, and the Winthrop consumer on this issue,â€ said Levins. â€œWe donâ€™t believe that they justified the new by-law or the high fee for a BYOB license. We are also frustrated by most of the councillorsâ€™ dismissive attitudes toward the financial concerns and difficulties that face small business owners today.â€
Levins also criticized the Council about the lack of public notice and input. â€œI sat at the Town Council meeting Tuesday night for three hours and listened as the council president read two letters favoring the position of a majority of the councilors. Our letter, which questioned the justification for the high license fee and requested that it be more in line with other non-liquor businesses, was acknowledged but not read, nor were we given the chance to speak on the issue before a vote.â€
Council President Jeffrey Turco said he respected Levinsâ€™s right to her opinion, but he felt the issue that been placed before the public for its input on several occasions.
â€œWe had several hearings where the public was allowed to evaluate it so the council could be well informed,â€ said Turco. â€œOur rules and ordinance committee and economic development committee had numerous hearings to come up with a product we could all be proud of. Unfortunately, in a democracy we can never please everybody but we think the ordinance represents something that we collectively believe is good for the community.â€
Turco said Winthropâ€™s fee is $600 less than the $1,000 fee in Swampscott, the only other community in Massachusetts that charges a fee.
â€œIf business owners don’t believe that brown bagging will increase revenues for their business, then they donâ€™t have to apply for the permit,â€ said Turco.
But Levins said the brown bagging permit was â€œmore than a financial issue.â€
"The Town Council had the opportunity to side with Winthrop business owners and to give a little back after introducing a new Winthrop meals tax last fall, after a state sales and meals tax increase, and after the residents approved a 2 Â½ override. They failed to do so."