everything old is new again?
the other day, on facebook, (yeah, i know), some questionably-intended employee of ward 8 posted a "secret word" (at the time the secret word was "banana's" [sic]) on the ward 8 facebook page, via which patrons could come down to the bar and receive a free shot. (all references to this "secret word" offer have since been removed upon pointing out their illegality, and more on that in a sec). which is a useful point at which to digress to observe that anyone who has been frequenting ward 8 lately will have noticed that the establishment is on a somewhat precipitous downward spiral, where, among other things, they have no mustard anywhere in the joint, the salt comes to the table in those little glass shaker thingies you usually get to sprinkle parmesan cheese on your pizza, (the server cautioned our party to be careful cuz the salt comes out kinda fast), and servers forget to put things like cutlery on the table before or even after the food comes out. i've seen my share of lowell service establishment implosions, and this one is as representative as any. and given the recent history of serving underage patrons, the appearance of a "free shot" offer ought to be the reddest of red flags to our enforcement and licensing agencies.
anyway, massachusetts general laws, chapter 138, have a certain amount of things to say about such things, as does chapter 204 of the code of massachusetts regulations. i'll quote a snippet from 204-4.03, "certain practices prohibited": (1) no licensee or employee or agent of a licensee shall: (a) offer or deliver any free drinks to any person or group of persons..."
anyway, i'm reminded of all of this not because the lowell license commission has any demonstrated record of enforcing such, but because there was a story submitted by emily royalty to nashoba publishing the other day in which it is recounted that a pepperell liquor store received a half day suspension following the sale of alcohol to two underage parties during a police compliance check.
this is a big deal to me for two reasons:
1) enforcing consequences upon those breaking liquor rules is the best way to ensure that liquor establishments follow the rules fairly and consistently. not for nothing, but establishments playing by those rules and doing things the right way are unfairly penalized whenever their competition flouts the rules and boosts their sales via illegal shortcuts. observing that we have an ongoing problem downtown here with lax liquor practices and consequent violence, (i won't post pictures of the blood pooled at the doorstep of brew'd awakenings the other day, but they're out there if you want to look for them), it seems like a no-brainer that we should all be for better (i.e. fair and consistent and not over-zealous) enforcement.
2) lowell license commissioners have argued vehemently with me that compliance checks are intended for educational purposes only, and consequences from them cannot be enforced. really??? do the license folks in pepperell know this? cuz it sure looks from here like that excuse is pretty damn flimsy.
my suggestion? somebody needs to haul these folks in, give 'em a consequence, (in pepperell for this place referred above the penalty was a half-day suspension, meaning they can only open at 3pm instead of 10am as per usual on one particular monday in late january). trust me despite my lack of standing to say so, but monday morning liquor sales are not going to drive anyone out of business in pepperell or in lowell for that matter, but they ARE going to get people's attention. because people then know that subsequent offenses are going to carry subsequent consequences that get very very real very very quickly. and better behavior all around will, consequently, ensue.
so stay tuned. let's see if the new license commission has any balls whatsoever, and whether they will start standing up for both us, the people, as well as us, the responsible business owners, and require that they, the irresponsible business owners, become more responsible, or not.
i surely hope it's the former.