In split vote, Select Board awards liquor license to hotel, not new brewery

On Wednesday night, the Marblehead Select Board granted The Hotel Marblehead a liquor license, disappointing the owners of a North Reading brewery competing for the same coveted license.

Contingent upon the state’s approval, The Hotel Marblehead, located at 264 Pleasant St., will be permitted to serve beer, wine and malt beverages for consumption on site, including in rooms.

After both businesses pitched their proposals, members Jim Nye, Jackie Belf Becker and Moses Grader sided with the hotel, while Alexa Singer and Erin Noonan backed the taproom.

Contingent upon the state’s approval, The Hotel Marblehead, located at 264 Pleasant St., will be permitted to serve beer, wine and malt beverages for consumption on site, including in rooms.

The hotel has been in business since the early 1970s, and the building has undergone renovations in recent years.

The hotel’s attorney, Paul Lynch, said the hotel had created a reception area of approximately 500 square feet on the ground level with seating for 11 people to congregate in the afternoon or early evening.

“This is something that the inn has never had: a liquor license, a beer-and-wine license, or a cordial license,” Lynch told the Select Board. “At this point, it is really needed to add additional amenities to the inn by allowing guests to enjoy alcoholic beverages without the necessity of leaving the property.”

The Hotel Marblehead’s application comes as The Mariner, an assisted and independent living residence, is soon opening its doors across the street from the hilltop hotel. The residence includes 108 beds in 87 units, 40 of them assisted living and 21 independent living. A memory care community has 26 units. There are studios and one- and two-bedroom units.

“The inn is going to become more and more in demand now with the Mariner being across the street,” said Lynch. “Families are going to come; they’re going to stay at the hotel and visit their family at The Mariner.”

In their pitch, owner Steven Gabardi and his attorney, John Connell, said Hopothecary Ales Taproom would have been located inside 31 Atlantic Ave., near the intersection with Hawkes Street, across the street from West Marine and adjacent to Sweetwater Trading Company and Maria’s Java Sun.

Plans called for turning the 3,150-square-foot space into a craft-beer brewery that included a single-floor dining room with 20 tables and 120 chairs, an outdoor patio of approximately 450 square feet, and a single bar at the building’s rear entrance.

“The applicant has operated a similarly themed craft brewery restaurant in North Reading since 2021,” Connell told the Select Board. “They’ve had no violations; it has become a very popular destination.”

Gabardi added that his main North Reading location had been built on a 10,000-square-foot property with 70 barrels of cellar capacity. Despite the pandemic’s challenges, they became one of the top breweries in the state, creating a loyal local following, he said.

“We think we have a very good brand. We’re very happy with what we’re doing in North Reading,” Gabardi told the Select Board.

According to the business’ website, Hopothecary Ales in North Reading is currently only offering beer to-go and by delivery, but Gabardi told the Select Board the business is planning to reopen fully by the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall.

Connell contrasted the two businesses, saying the brewery would have operated in a commercial zone, while the hotel is in a residential zone.

“We will be serving primarily Marblehead people, whereas the other applicant will be serving primarily people from out of town,” said Connell. “We have a far greater seating capacity. We expect to create more by way of meals taxes and jobs.”

Noonan said she voted in favor of awarding the alcohol license to the brewery based on its potential for economic revitalization, community impact and the scale of the operation. She believed that the brewery could serve as “an anchor establishment,” attracting customers, benefiting abutting businesses and contributing to the overall growth of the business district.

“I think our responsibility here, obviously, is to think of what is for the greatest good of the town,” she said. “We have a business district that we’ve been trying to really activate, especially that specific corridor in town on Atlantic Avenue.”

But the majority sided with the hotel and its history in town.

“I think we already have an existing business, and I think that’s what kind of seals it for us, for me personally,” Grader said. “That’s what it came down to — who had the existing business.”

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