Thursday, November 7, 2013
Foxboro Politiics Now Officially in the Gutter
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Thursday, November 7, 2013
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
If you want to successfully locate a business with a liquor license in any particular community, there are good guidelines to follow.
You should have a proven track record of operating similar establishments. You should appeal not to just to drinkers, but offer something for others as well. You should be able to prove you will contribute to the community both economically and socially in a positive manner.
You should be located in an area where increased traffic and shoppers is considered a good thing. You should be backed by respected taxpayers, have the approval of the Chief of Police, a positive review from the town’s legal representatives, and near-unanimous support from those who turn out at a public hearing. If you do all that, you will normally be successful.
Unless, of course, you are applying to the Foxboro Board of Selectmen and are in any way connected with the Kraft Organization. In that case you might as well save yourself the time it takes to present a clear and compelling argument for your position, because none of it will matter. The overwhelming odds are you will be turned down regardless of the facts.
That is exactly what happened to those proposing to locate a bowling alley and nightclub/bar in Patriot Place surrounding Gillette Stadium. They have to be wondering why the majority of local selectmen seem so prejudiced against the town’s largest taxpayer and all those associated with them.
They did everything the right way, even down to applying for a transfer of an existing license at Patriot Place rather than requesting a new one. They enlisted the advice of the local police chief, going so far as to pay his expenses to travel to a similar establishment out of state to get a feel for the operation. In conjunction with the Kraft Organization, they agreed to pay for increased police presence and provide a physical facility for a command office.
The police chief said he saw no major problems with the license. The lawyers the selectmen hired specifically for liquor issues saw no obstacles that could not be overcome. The establishment would have been located in an area specifically designed for commercial use and with a track record of handling high volume traffic. And the comments from local residents and taxpayers at the public hearing were unanimously positive and in favor.
So naturally, it was defeated by a 3-2 vote of the board with the general reason of “public good and public safety” used to justify the action. The three selectmen voting against it – Lorraine Brue, Virginia Coppola and John Gray – each also cited certain other factors.
Selectman Gray said he had visited the club’s website and spoke to someone at the company’s Fairview, Texas facility. He cited a video on the website as a concern, despite assurances from the owners they were not going to serve the same kind of “large drinks” in Foxboro. Apparently he felt this was a more reliable source of information than listening to the police chief’s first-hand report following an actual visit.
Selectman Brue was worried about the number of people the business might draw to Patriot Place, and that police staffing levels might be spread too thin. She said it would amount to “bringing on another Toby Keith’s”, although the capacity of the bowling alley venues would have been about half that of the popular country bar.
No doubt the many tax-paying businesses located in Patriot Place were pleased to hear one of their selectmen dedicating herself to limiting the number of people who might travel to their location. In many other communities, local officials try and help businesses located in commercial areas rather than hurt them. The situation in Foxboro appears somewhat unique.
No one is questioning the right of selectmen to make the decision they did – just their wisdom in doing so. Given what Trader Joe’s had to go through to eventually get a license, this appears to simply be part of the selectmen’s ongoing feud with their largest source of revenue – the Kraft Organization.
And the businesses located in Patriot Place, along with the taxpayers of Foxboro, appear to be little more than collateral damage in this silly and ongoing war.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.