Laundry appeals alcohol ruling
No laundromat in Massachusetts offers customers a beer while their dirty duds churn, and selectmen in Raynham aim to keep their town from hosting the first.
On Wednesday, town officials will attend an appeals hearing before the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission in Boston to make sure local business owner George Moniz remains unable to serve his customers alcoholic drinks at the Raynham Laundry Center on South Street West.
Moniz, who has owned the laundromat for five years, in March unsuccessfully pitched a plan to serve beer and wine during a liquor license hearing held by the selectmen.
It wasn’t the first time he had made such a request, but it was the first time it got as far as a license hearing.
In 2008, Moniz looked into obtaining an all-alcohol license, but was told none were available at the time.
In March, Moniz told selectmen his plan to serve beer and wine was part of an effort to make the business more customer-friendly: Patrons could tip back a brew while watching their laundry. Plenty of area restaurants provide food delivery, he argued, so customers could send out for snacks to accompany their drinks.
“Business has been slow, so you look for other ways to generate money,’’ Moniz said last week. “This is done in California, the Dakotas, and north of here in Vermont and Maine. We’re one of the few states that don’t have laundromats serving beer and wine.’’
But selectmen didn’t buy the pitch, denying Moniz’s application even though he is a licensed bartender and had brought along several loyal laundromat customers who enthusiastically voiced their support for the beer and wine proposal.
“I had letters of support from several businesses,’’ Moniz said. “They unjustifiably said no.’’
Moniz appealed the denial to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission early in the summer. The panel noted that Raynham selectmen had failed to provide a written statement of reasons for denying Moniz’s application, which is required under state law, and sent a directive to local officials to produce that document.
The selectmen last month sent a four-page list of reasons for their denial drawn up by their attorney, Marc Antine, to both Moniz and the state, and the hearing was set for Wednesday.
The board said among its reasons for turning down the application were the inability of Moniz’s staff to adequately supervise and control customers consuming alcohol due to the laundromat’s layout and the lack of an indication of where the alcohol would be stored or whether a dishwasher would be installed to clean glasses and dishware.
The board also said customers sitting at tables near the door could easily step out to the parking lot with a brew.
The selectmen also stated that the addition of alcohol service to the laundromat would create a zoning violation, because the operation would then have insufficient parking under the town’s bylaws for businesses serving alcohol.
The requirement for a restaurant or bar is one parking space for every two seats, a substantial change from the laundromat’s requirement, which is one parking space for every 200 square feet of business space.
“The board will not grant an alcoholic beverage pouring license that would create a violation of the zoning bylaws,’’ the selectmen said in their statement.
“I think we feel we have a good case,’’ selectmen chairman Joseph Pacheco said last week. “It’s not that we’re trying to be a dry community. It comes down to public safety.’’
Pacheco said customers can simply leave their clothes tumbling at the laundromat and go to nearby restaurants and bars if they want a drink.
“There is a Chili’s, Peddlar’s Loft, and two liquor stores nearby,’’ he said.
Moniz said he had been willing to work with the board.
“I even told them I would put up a partial wall to keep the beer and wine in one place,’’ he said. He has forwarded the letters of support he has received to the ABCC and is hoping for a decision in his favor.
“I think it would help everybody in the area for business,’’ he said. “I’ve had customers come to me and say they’ll run to this or that place for a drink while their clothes are washing. This would allow them to stay here.’’
He has a sympathizer at the Washbuckler Laundromat in Rutland, Vt., which has served beer and wine for 20 years. Washbuckler owner David Catero said last week he was surprised to hear of Moniz’s licensing difficulties.
“We police it due to the family nature of our operation,’’ Catero said. “People don’t hang out in a laundromat to drink. They have a drink while they do their laundry.’’
Raynham’s delegation to the ABCC hearing will include Pacheco, Antine, Police Chief Louis Pacheco, and town planner Marilyn Whalley, who will address site plan and zoning issues.
Louis Pacheco, the police chief, said Moniz’s proposal could create a risk to the public.
“At the hearing, I’ll basically say people are coming and going in that area, and it’s not well-lit,’’ he said.
Moniz, meanwhile, said he will pass on the option to produce witnesses for his side at the hearing.
“It’ll just be me and my attorney,’’ he said. “I think the town is making a mistake. This is an opportunity for me as well as other businesses that will deliver food. I feel like the politicians in town are for big business instead of the little guy.’’
Christine Legere can be reached at email@example.com.