Selectmen Declare Package Stores Unwelcome in Belmont

Photo: Manager Kiran Nagar of Trapelo Variety with attorney Jake Walters (right) and husband Ajay Nagar before the Belmont Board of Selectmen.

The attempt by a young business couple to bring beer and wine to Belmont’s Central Square (the intersection of Trapelo Road and Beech Street) did not pass the “character” test before the Belmont Board of Selectmen Monday night, Dec. 1.

With the selectmen voicing a growing number of concerns and a half-dozen neighbors expressing discontent with the business centered on selling alcohol, the Selectmen rejected the application of a wine and malt retail license to Kiran and Ajay Nagar of Trapelo Variety located at 386 Trapelo Rd.

“It’s really about the character of the store,” said Selectman Mark Paolillo after being told by the Nagar’s that the small storefront business – with about 500 square-feet of business space – they bought in August would focus nearly exclusively on the sale of alcohol along with two of its most popular items, cigarettes and lottery tickets, if it received the license.

Pointing to the Selectmen’s decision in May to reject a beer and wine license to LC Variety a few hundred feet down Trapelo Road from the Trapelo Variety, Paolillo noted the Selectmen then were troubled by the same mix of lottery tickets, alcohol and tobacco at the location.

“I don’t see how I can vote to approve this application when we denied one for LC Variety,” said Paolillo.

“It’s also how the town sees itself,” said Selectmen Chair Andy Rojas, noting the four establishments with either beer and wine or full-alcohol licenses – The Loading Dock, Belmont Center’s Craft Beer Cellar and Vintages Adventures in Wine and The Spirited Gourmet in Cushing Square – have a polished “upscale” feel while “[t]his feels like a package store.” 

In addition, Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan wrote to the board opposing the license as the store was within 500 feet of the playground of the Daniel Butler Elementary School on White Street.

“My concern is the proximity with the Butler School,” said Selectman Sami Baghdady, saying the neighborhood was a “very family friendly” which ran countered to a alcohol-centric retail operation.

Kiran Nagar, who manages and runs the current store, said the proposed store would allow local residents to purchase beer and wine in Belmont rather than heading to Waltham or Watertown.

“This will allow us to increase business and revenue for the town and allow us to grow,” said Nagar, who indicated that they would likely take over the space currently occupied by an insurance agency next door if the license was granted.

While residents said they have seen an improvement in overall cleanliness and that Nagar is an outgoing merchant, residents did not support the move to beer and wine sale.

“I can’t see how a package store is an addition to the area,” said Dave Skolnick of Hull Street. “It doesn’t do the town justice.”

In the end, the worries outweighed the advantages of the business plan and the board rejected the proposal.