Southwick updating liquor laws

SOUTHWICK – The Board of Selectmen, in conjunction with the Southwick Police Department, is updating the town’s liquor license regulations.
Earlier this summer, the topic came up when owners of The Proud Chef came before the board for a license. The license was approved.  However, the board told the owners there would likely be changes to the times of outdoor deck and patio use. The subject of outdoor use of liquor-selling establishments was brought up again when owners of Brew II requested to use outdoor space on Tuesday nights throughout the summer for its Bike Night. Again, the board gave its approval but said there would likely be changes forthcoming.
Selectman Russell Fox said he was concerned with the noise levels and how it affects the neighbors and suggested that there should be no outdoor entertainment or serving of drinks and food outdoors after 9 p.m.
This week, the board met with Police Lt. David Ricardi to discuss updating the current regulations.
“The last time we made any changes was 1993,” Ricardi said. “There are more outdoor spaces now than there were then, and there have been geographical changes – there are establishments that once had no neighbors that have them now.”
Ricardi said the issue with the use of outdoor decks and patios is noise.
“It’s a quality of life issue for the neighbors,” he said.
While Ricardi does not know if 9 p.m. will ultimately be the cut-off time for outdoor entertainment and serving, he said it is a “reasonable time.”
“We are trying to make it fair for everyone,” he said. “I’m not sure what the time will be, but it will not be 11 p.m. or midnight.”
Another change Ricardi is working on is the requirement for anyone serving alcohol to complete a server-training course.
“This includes restaurants, bars and liquor stores,” Ricardi said, adding that anyone already trained would be grandfathered in.
The new regulations would require all establishments selling liquor to provide the town with a list of current employees and to file their certifications with the town as well. Ricardi said there would be a window of opportunity given to the establishments to get all the employees certified.
Keeping up with this new regulation means a little more work for the police department, but Ricardi said it is worth it.
“I’d rather do the work than go to a fatality accident because someone was over-served by someone not trained,” Ricardi said. “Hopefully this will save lives or prevent injuries.”
Included in the updated regulations is a new item mandating that establishment staff call the police immediately when there is an incident inside, or outside, the property, including a disturbance, breach of peace, and assault.
Ricardi said often when there is a fight at a bar, the victim comes to the station to report the incident rather than calling police at the time. Ricardi said when police try to investigate, the witnesses are usually no longer at the scene. Another addition to the regulations is that establishment staff cannot allow an intoxicated person to come onto the property and must notify police so the person’s safety can be checked.
Ricardi said other updates include that no pitchers of beer or carafes of wine can be served half an hour before closing, and bouncers cannot touch a patron unless defending another patron or himself.
Ricardi said the updates and additions bring the liquor license regulations “to current times” and are another way to provide safety to the town. Ricardi expects the regulations will come before the town in the form of a warrant article at the fall Town Meeting.
Southwick currently has 24 establishments that sell alcohol, including package stores, bars and restaurants.

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