Published in the March 23, 2017 edition

NORTH READING – The long saga of one of the town’s beer and wine licenses came to an end Monday night as selectmen voted to approve its transfer to the Lucky Mart on the corner of North Street and Route 28. At a meeting back in December, selectmen voted to approve an extension until the end of March for previous license holder Chris Pendleton to find a new buyer or make other arrangements. Pendleton had owned the former Tedeschi Food Mart in North Reading before that company was purchased by 7-11 and closed. A deed restriction on the former property prohibits other convenience stores from operating there and potentially competing with 7-11. On Monday night, Attorney Thomas Truax, representing the owners of Lucky Mart, the Patel family, explained that the store has been in compliance with the deed restriction by selling mostly lottery tickets and tobacco, plus snacks, drinks and other such items. The recognized definition of a convenience store, added Truax, includes the sale of items such as dairy, health and beauty aids, and limited produce. “Mr. Patel’s store is clearly not a convenience store,” said Truax. Truax also reported that right now, tobacco accounts for about 43% of sales at the Lucky Mart, while lottery commission sales account for 33%, and snacks, drinks and pharmacy type items account for 24%. The addition of the license to the store would make beer and wine account for 20 to 25% of sales, Truax projected. He also noted that the family already owns two liquor stores as well as the smoke shop in downtown Peabody. Selectman Mike Prisco expressed opposition to the license transfer, noting that 80% of the store’s current sales consist of lottery and tobacco. He also suggested there is no additional need in that vicinity for a business selling beer and wine. “The need is satisfied,” said Prisco. Truax countered that if the license holder was seeking a new location, then it would be an issue for selectmen, but otherwise, their main role in this case was to ensure that the requirements of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission are met. Prisco later noted that the town could potentially need this liquor license in the future in light of some of its future development plans. Attorney Ken Doherty, representing the adjoining Captain Pizza, noted that the license has been held at that location for some 40 years now, adding that it complements the pizza business by giving customers a quick place to buy beer or wine. Pendleton, the previous license holder, also spoke on behalf of the license for Lucky Mart, saying they had done more to improve the business in six months than Tedeschi’s had done in 15 years. “They do run a really good shop,” he said. Selectman Jeffrey Yull said that the need for beer and wine sales in the area will ultimately be decided by the laws of supply and demand. “We have an opportunity here for growth,” said Yull, adding that government of any size should not be imposing over-regulation on businesses, and that while he does not purchase lottery, tobacco or alcohol products himself typically, he has no issue with those who do. “Who am I to say what other people should do?” said Yull. Selectman Steven O’Leary also expressed support for Lucky Mart, noting that the circumstances had been different the two times last year when the license came up before selectmen. He added that along with the longstanding location of the license and the impressive recent cleanup work, the town had received no complaints about Lucky Mart. Select Board Chair Robert Mauceri also expressed support for the proposal, saying that the previous efforts to transfer the license had not made as much sense. The license transfer was approved on a 3-1 vote with Prisco voting no and Selectman Kathryn Manupelli not present.