By Chris Maza
EAST LONGMEADOW – A new business that will allow patrons to bring their own beer or wine was approved by the Planning Board at its Dec. 17 meeting because the board determined it had no standing to disapprove it.
David Small received a waiver of site plan review from the board for Painting with a Twist, a business that in his application was described as “a national franchise offering art instruction classes in relaxed, fun, party-like environment.”
The art studio will be located at 406 North Main St., in the Stop & Shop Plaza and open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Painting with a Twist allows those taking classes who are of legal age to drink to bring alcoholic beverages to the studio to enjoy while creating their art, an issue that raised concerns among members of the board, as well as a discussion as to who had the authority to approve for deny such a practice.
“We allow our patrons to bring wine or beer and this basically helps people to relax. First time painters tend to be nervous,” owner David Small told the board. “It’s what the franchise has done across the U.S. and it’s helped our business considerably.”
Planning Board Chair Michael Carrabetta explained that one of the primary concerns raised by the police was an issue of control.
“If somebody drinks too much, who is going to be responsible for their actions after they leave that building? We have several bars in town that the police are responsible for,” he said. “The downside to us approving you is everybody after you is going to be looking for the exact same thing, which is going to put the town in a situation that I think is going to tax the police more and more, it’s going to give us less control, it’s going to give us less idea of who’s being safe and what’s being operated in a correct way.”
Small said franchise owners were taught by corporate how to handle situations in “the correct way,” adding if staff determined someone was drinking too much, they would take steps such as finding a designated driver for that patron, calling them a cab, or even calling the police if necessary.
Board member George Kingston was among those who felt the Planning Board had no authority to dictate whether or not the business could allow the business’s “BYOB” policy.
“I don’t really see how this is much different than a cooking place down her that holds cooking classes and allows people to bring something in and sip while they cook,” he said.
Robyn Macdonald corrected him stating, “That was for cooking purposes only and they’re gone.”
However, Kingston stressed that the Planning Board’s purview was land use and as long as the practices at the establishment were not in violation of any laws, there was no reason for the board not to grant the waiver.
“We don’t approve or disapprove alcohol. We approve uses. We’re dealing with uses here and the use is an educational facility,” he said. “There’s nothing to stop any business in this town without asking permission to allow its customers to bring something in or for that matter serve their customers without charge.
“I don’t see how bringing your own bottle is a use. As long as they’re not violating any open container law or any other alcohol-related law, what they’re doing is accessory to the main use and the main use is education,” he continued.
Board member Ralph Page said the Board of Selectmen were responsible for overseeing the alcohol portion of the business. He said he was at the meeting at which Painting With a Twist was discussed and the board could have taken action to develop a policy through the general bylaw to create a “BYOB” license, but they opted not to take any action.
“By remaining silent, it’s basically allowing it to happen in town,” Page said, adding that the Commonwealth’s policy states, “Silence on the issue is equivalent to legal authorization.”
He added, “I think we would be overstepping if we say no on this.”
Board member Tyde Richards suggested putting off the vote for in order to allow time for further research, but it was determined that would not be necessary.
“It’s not fair to restrict this gentleman if we don’t have the rules,” Carrabetta said. “It’s not fair to enforce rules we do not have.”
A motion to approve the waiver of site plan review was approved 3-1 with Richards issuing the negative vote.