Cambridge-area shoppers accustomed to picking up cases of two-buck Chuck from the Trader Joe’s on Memorial Drive might want to stock up now. During a hearing held Wednesday by the city’s liquor licensing commission, the grocery store made the first steps toward transferring its liquor license to another local retailer. Sales of beer and wine at the Cambridge store will cease on Oct. 1.
Kenya Friend-Daniel, Trader Joe’s spokesperson, said the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission restrictions influenced the company’s decision to divest its license at the Memorial Drive location. “By law in Massachusetts we are only allowed seven liquor licenses,” she said.
The transfer application will shift ownership of the liquor license from the grocery store to a nearby specialty food shop, Salt & Olives, at 1160 Massachusetts Ave. The shop’s owner, Mary Taylor, said Wednesday’s hearing began a process that could last several weeks, as the transfer must get state approval and go before the Cambridge zoning board before it is finalized.
“There are several hoops to jump through still before we’re granted a license,” Taylor said. She said she hopes to begin selling alcohol to complement her store’s selection of spices and international foods. “We look at beer and wine as a really wonderful ingredient to creating a wonderful meal.”
Nicole Murati Ferrer, the chair for the Cambridge License Commission, said the transfer has not yet been approved and said the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission would have final approval.
But area shoppers shouldn’t stress: Last September, the California-based grocery store announced plans to open a new Allston store in the Continuum complex at the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue near the Harvard Stadium, and the company received a license to sell beer and wine at that store from the Boston Licensing Board in February.
Friend-Daniel said that the Allston store will have a larger footprint and will also allow them to sell spirits in addition to beer and wine. “We had to think long and hard about it. We know that it’s going to impact our customers,” she said. “We hope they can visit and check out the new store,” which is scheduled to open in mid-October.
The decision to limit the number of licenses one company can hold in Massachusetts to just seven has created issues for other retailers, said John Connell, a Boston attorney specializing in liquor licenses. “It’s a problem for all of these chain stores. Stop & Shop and Total Wine would all love to have as many licenses as they can in the state, but that seven limit prohibits them from doing that. That cap is there to protect small mom-and-pop-type liquor stores.”
Trader Joe’s currently operates 19 stores in Massachusetts. The Allston location will be its 20th.Janelle Nanos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at @janellenanos on Twitter.