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Foodies tries again to get a license for beer and wine for its South Boston store

Victor Leon

The Boston Licensing Board could decide tomorrow whether to grant Foodies, 230 West Broadway, a beer-and-wine license after rejecting similar requests from the store in the past.

At a hearing today, Foodies attorney Kristen Scanlon said nothing less than the long-term survival of the store, one of just two supermarkets in all of South Boston is at stake, in its request to sell local craft beers and wines that could pair with the prepared meals and other foods Foodies sells.

Scanlon said the store finds itself under increasing competition from both national chains, such as Whole Foods - a mile away in the Ink Block in the South End - and with local markets. She added that the Leon family has invested millions into turning a decrepit old building into a "vibrant" market, one that serves the West Broadway area, which has experienced explosive growth in residential units since Foodies opened in 2010.

"There is nothing on this particular end of South Boston that offers both food and beer and wine," she said, adding the South End Foodies has long sold beer and wine with no problems.

Scanlon acknowledged the presence of Al's Liquors a few steps away, but said that should be no reason to deny Foodies a license, because there are other places in South Boston where alcohol purveyors are across from each other. Besides, she added, Foodies is "a family- run grocery market, it's not just another package store in the neighborhood."

Owner Victor Leon (in photo) estimated the "end caps" and refrigerated units he would use for the beverages would take up 600 square feet of space, out of roughly 8,000 square feet of store space. He said he would not eliminate any food items to make way for the alcohol, just reduce the number of some items on the shelves.

But most local residents and aides to elected officials who testified had a simple retort: No. South Boston already has enough places to procure alcohol and that Foodies should stick to its knitting in food, they said.

"It seems me there's a package store on every corner of the neighborhood," Patrick Hayes of National Street said.

"What we really need is another grocery store," Patricia Walsh of West 6th Street said. "We are basically a food desert but we are filled to the brim with ways to get alcohol." She also asked if the board really wants to approve another liquor license in South Boston what with all the nonsense going on at M Street Beach.

"I just wish we could put an end to this request once and for all so Foodies can focus on food," said Ellen O'Brien, who lives in Dorchester but who works near Foodies.

One resident did support the application. Alix Shapiro of Gold Street said Foodies was a Godsend during the pandemic, it was always well stocked, and she feels an independent store needs every advantage it can get, in this case a beer-and-wine license, to help stave off the bigger chains, like Whole Foods.

Patrick Carney of Al's Liquors voiced his opposition as well, even after the board told him that competition is not a reason the board can use to deny a liquor license. He charged Foodies went out of its way to not notify nearby residents of the latest request for a beer and wine license.

The mayor's office and the offices of City Councilors Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty and Annissa Essaibi George opposed the request. Haley Dillon of the mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services said it could not support a request that was opposed by all of the stores direct neighbors.

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Comments

No more artificial scarcity. Rip the band-aid off. We did it to the medallion holders, we can do it to the liquor license holders. Just rubber stamp this stuff. The sky isn't falling in states that aren't so uptight about this shit.

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Voting closed 67

Clearly it's just friends of Al's liquor crowding into a zoom meeting to block them. This type of politics is obscene...

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Voting closed 28

Did the owner of Foodies try being City Councilor Frank Baker’s brother? It worked for The Sugar Bowl, they got their liquor license despite being a coffee shop and barely being open.

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Voting closed 53

"I just wish we could put an end to this request once and for all so Foodies can focus on food"

But...they don't want to just focus on food. Why should your opinion on how they operate their business matter? What harm would their decision to divide their business focus have on you

"What we really need is another grocery store," Patricia Walsh of West 6th Street said. "We are basically a food desert but we are filled to the brim with ways to get alcohol."

They are promising to keep selling all the same food they already do. The general complaint about the lack of grocery options may be correct, I don't live in the neighborhood so who am I to know for sure, but considering the business sector this establishment is already functioning in, I don't think we can point any fingers at them for that problem existing.

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Voting closed 39

I think is an absolute disgrace in this day and age that this type of behavior is going on! The days of muscling people who are "OUTSIDERS"are over giving them the license would be great for everyone!! This is not going to be a place selling nips cigarettes and scratch tickets so give it a break.BTW im an OG city guy

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Voting closed 22

Is actually a pretty sizable chunk of the usable space for stocking grocery items. The aisles take up about half the space and there's probably ~500 sq ft at the front of the store for the checkout area. So we're really talking about 20-25% of the space available for products, and that probably does ultimately impact selection for groceries.

It's not as if the Licensing Board would come back and demand they give up their license if they reduce the variety of items they stock, right?

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Voting closed 14

Chances are you can carry the same SKUs in a smaller footprint by carrying a smaller back stock and increasing the frequency of delivery of certain goods. In other words, instead of ordering 3 cases of Honey Nut Cheerios once per week, the store orders 1 case of Honey Nut Cheerios 3 times per week.

If carrying beer and wine increases weekly/monthly revenue while still carrying the same grocery products demanded by the neighborhood, then it’s better for the store’s long-term viability in this location.

Because there’s always the possibility that Foodie’s doesn’t make enough profit to stay in business and they close that store altogether. Let the store run as profitably as possible.

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Voting closed 22

Everyone loves Al's even if the store hasn't been cleaned or modernized since the Truman administration, so the tactic of "only selling craft beer and paired wines" isn't going to work in this case. It worked for American Provisions but that was ten years ago.

Maybe they should just make a TikTok of what goes on inside Whitey's and ask "you're going to let these people sell booze but not us?"

Yes, Southie is a food desert and there are at least seven off premise licenses already on both East and West Broadway, maybe more, and no people shouldn't be telling a business owner what to focus on but maybe if Foodie's had a stronger brand they'd have a chance of competing with the Goliath that is Amazon/WF.

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Voting closed 13

I agree with the resident who says we need to support independent food stores. Even though I would make little to no use of the alcohol offerings, if they keep the store profitable, I would benefit by being able to buy the food.

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Voting closed 26

Owners of nearby liquor serving establishments should absolutely NOT be allowed to give testimony at another establishment's liquor license hearing.

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Voting closed 19

They absolutely should be allowed to SPEAK on a matter that has a non-zero likelihood of causing their business harm. How much weight their concerns have vs. other stakeholders should be moderated to a reasonable level as the Board weighs all concerns involved.

Perhaps I'm not saying that exactly as I want it to sound: competing business interests should be allowed to express their concerns however those concerns should not be used as the sole deciding factor in the Boards decision to grant a license to an additional business.

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Voting closed 9

Arguably the fact that we allow neighbors to weigh in at all is of questionable utility and tends to allow personal biases to weight the decision (as well as significantly increasing uncertainty for the proponent and thus making financing significantly harder to secure). The fact that people are allowed to do so even when they have a financial stake in seeing the proponent fail just makes it that much worse. The fact that these meetings are often sparsely attended (thus allowing competitors to dominate the room) compounds the problem.

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Voting closed 13