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Fitchburg Board Seeks Input on BYOB Regs

September 25, 2018

Martineau ... sees need for regulations

FITCHBURG -- Should businesses be able to let customers bring their own bottle unfettered by local regulations?

Or, should BYOB establishments be subject to some of the same regulations as are liquor stores, bars or restaurants that serve beer, wine or hard alcohol?

The License Commission wants to know what residents and businesses owners think as it considers sending a policy recommendation to City Council.

“We want to decide what we feel like would be a good recommendation to send to the City Council,” said License Commissioner Daniel Sarefield. “We’re at the point where we think we need some input from the community.”

The public is invited to tell the commission exactly that at a Monday, Oct. 15, meeting that begins 6 p.m. at the Fitchburg Fire Department.

In the absence of citywide regulations governing BYOB (bring your own bottle,) any Fitchburg business that doesn’t sell beer, liquor or wine may allow the practice, he said.

Such businesses are not required to tell the city they allow BYOB, nor carry liquor liability insurance, according to Sarefield.

Sarefield created a draft policy proposal with suggested regulations, such as requiring businesses BYOB carry such insurance and serve food.

The draft regulations, which he said may be revised in light of feedback from the public, also propose the creation of a BYOB license administered by the city, and limiting the size and type of alcoholic beverage patrons may consume.

Sarefield said he wrote the draft regulations based on policies adopted by surrounding communities.

Weston, for example, requires BYOB businesses serve food, check patrons IDs, and bars patrons from bringing liquor.

Here in Fitchburg, Putnam Street Lanes candlepin bowling has allowed the practice for 20 years, according to owner Gary Therrien.

Therrien opposes a term included in the draft regulations that would limit BYOB to between the hours of 5 and 11 p.m.

Some of his customers work overnight hours and bring “a few brews” to Putnam Lanes to drink while bowling in the daytime, he said.

“It penalizes the person that work the night shift because their time off, it would be during the day,” he said.

Mayor Stephen DiNatale said he is interested to hear what the public has to say about the practice, adding that it “seems to work well” for Il Forno restaurant, which a manager said Monday has been BYOB since 1991.

Police Chief Ernest Martineau said he does not favor banning BYOB altogether.

“I’m not against it because it’s nice to have the opportunity to have bottle of wine with dinner,” he said.

New regulations, though, are needed to ensure such businesses keep patrons from over-consuming, driving drunk or drinking while underage, he said.

“Any place in public that’s going to have alcohol in it, there has to be some type of regulations, some type of oversight,” said Martineau.

After the upcoming Oct. 15 public hearing, the License Commission may adjust its draft regulations “based on what’s right for Fitchburg,” said Sarefield.

The commission has discussed a “variety of options” related to overseeing BYOB, he said. It tossed around the idea of creating a registry of businesses that allow the practice, rather than licensing them.

Whether any of the License Commission’s recommendations become local law is up to the City Council, he said.

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