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Plan for beer, wine store near JP school stirs debate

Posted by Roy Greene  November 11, 2011 03:08 PM

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Sheets draped over the rooftop and pockmarked garage doors block passersby from seeing the interior of a former chiropractor’s office in Jamaica Plain that has sat vacant for nearly a year. Now, a wine and beer store, called Streetcar after the trolleys that used to run down Centre Street, is set to open there early next year.

The store could help boost the area’s sluggish economy, but not everyone is thrilled. The problem: The building is just 11 paces away from the Curley K-8 School.

“It is our responsibility as adults to not tempt our children,” said Maryetta Dussourd, a Jamaica Plain resident whose four children attended Curley. “I think we’re making a big mistake here by allowing alcohol to be sold right in front of them.”

Tabitha Watson photo

Michael Dupuy at planned location of Streetcar Wine and Beer.

The news in the last few months that the store will open is stirring debate in Jamaica Plain. Most business owners herald the newcomer, while residents have mixed feelings. Some parents fear the effects on their children.

“It’s just easy access for the kids,” said Andre Edwards, whose 6-year-old daughter is a Curley first-grader. “It shouldn’t be right in front of the school.”

Michael Dupuy, owner of Streetcar Wine and Beer, is working on winning approval for an alcohol license. He has to demonstrate a public need for Streetcar in Jamaica Plain, something he could accomplish given his unique focus on small wine and beer sellers.

If approved, Streetcar would not be the only store selling alcohol in the neighborhood. City Feed and Supply, a grocery and deli, and Tres Gatos, a combined restaurant and bookstore, already sell alcohol within walking distance of Curley.

Adults cannot protect children from everything, says Josh Johnson, a parent of a Curley first-grader.

“I’m all for it,” said Johnson. “Kids see everything and after talking to Michael he has alleviated any fears I had. He made it clear that there will be no snacks or things to attract children. It will be a nice addition.”

Dupuy said that after 10 years in the business, he knows how to refuse sales to minors.

“I want to make sure that the face of the store is not attracting children,” Dupuy said. He said he intends to take care in designing the storefront, avoiding large posters or banners that might appeal to children.

Some residents and business owners question if selling to minors will even be a problem, given that Curley students are so young.

“I don’t see any sixth-graders walking up to a wine store to buy drinks,” said Sarah Giovannetti, a bartender and manager of Tres Gatos, a tapas restaurant. “It’s hard to open up in this economy. It just so happens that the place is right across from the school, but it’ll bring good business to Centre Street.”

Dupuy, 32, lives a 20-minute bike ride from Centre Street and decided to start his business in Jamaica Plain because of the atmosphere.

“I wanted to give it a name that people could identify with,” he said. “Jamaica Plain is very loyal to small businesses. There’s a sense of community here, and I want to be part of that.”

Owners of the small restaurants and shops bordering the potential Streetcar spot say the issue should be viewed from a business perspective.

“Streetcar will give life to this neighborhood,” said Mondi Polena, owner of Zesto’s Pizza & Grille, which has occupied a spot on Centre Street for the past two years. “The place has been vacant for some time now. It needs something new.”

Dupuy said he hopes that his business will be a positive addition.

“I'm absolutely concerned with the potential negative effects that alcohol can have on children,” he said. “I'll do my part to prevent sales of alcohol to minors. I believe that it is just as important that parents teach their kids about alcohol.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service.

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