Weston Provisions, Citizen’s Petition and Who Needs a Beer
Note: in researching this story, the Weston Owl reached out to Hannah Nicholl, one of the co-owners of Weston Provisions. As of yesterday, or perhaps earlier, but definitely yesterday, Hannah and her husband Chris are no longer associated with Weston Provisions. This morning after the original post, the Owl spoke with co-owner Mark Lucas, who with wife Candace are all in for the ongoing success of this store. This is not that story though.
Note: this is largely an opinion piece, based on fact and lots of videos from Weston Media Center.
Weston Town Meeting takes place on Monday, May 8 at 7 pm. It is the sincere hope of the Owl that there is an amazing and unexpectedly huge turnout in a massive show of civic pride. It’s set up for success with a Kids Night Out for children of town meeting-goers, and lots of free and easy parking. Anyone who has lived in Boston or San Francisco gets me on the last part. We will be deciding important things like the budget, water tanks, and how much we care for amphibians (wetlands by-law). We will approve or turn down pickleball, tennis and basketball courts, and vote on whether or not we like rhododendrons. You have the power, Weston, but only if you show up.
The final item to be voted on Monday night is Article 22: Amend Chapter 37 of the Acts of 2008: An Act Authorizing the Town of Weston to Grant a License for the Sale of Wines and Malt Beverages at a Food Store (as supplied by petitioners). Translated, this is Weston Provisions, purveyor of huge and yummy sandwiches, as well as locally-sourced gourmet food items, asking to be able to sell craft beer and wine along with their cheeses and truffle oil. Not vodka nips. Not Bud Lite. Never ever Bud Lite.
Currently, Weston has only one liquor sales license for one food store. That belongs to Bros Market and they don’t seem to want to give it up, nor should they. I quite like their selection. The history of alcohol sales in Weston is pretty much hilarious to me (sorry, old schoolers, but what???) but not too far off the overall history of alcohol laws in Massachusetts, which is definitely the most cray-cray of states about regulating alcohol but says hey, have a vape or some pot. Oops, opinion. Here’s a brief history of liquor in the Weston Historical Society Bulletin of Spring 2008 which preceded the vote in May 2008 that allowed Omni (now Bros) to stock the liquor.
Here’s a brief bit in case you don’t have time to read the whole bulletin (and you should make time):
The 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment, which was fully ratified by December 1933. Weston continued to exercise its local option to prohibit licenses for the sale of all types of alcohol, whether on the premises or
packaged for home consumption. In 1940, for example, voters turned down the sale of all types of alcohol by a vote of 376 “yes” to 1617 “no.” That same year, a larger percentage voted “yes” on the sale of alcoholic beverages in packages (609 vs. 1372). Voters were always more favorably disposed to approve package stores, although “no” votes always outnumbered “yes” by at least two-to-one.
In 1970, Weston was one of 30 Massachusetts communities that remained dry. As of April 2007, Weston was one of only 12 such towns, the others being Alford, Chilmark, Dunstable, Gayhead, Gosnold, Hawley, Montgomery, Mount Washington, Tisbury, West Tisbury, and Westhampton. [Ed: Tisbury has since voted to allow alcohol sales, in 2012]. The lack of licensed liquor stores and restaurants has not precluded the serving of alcohol at country clubs and at private functions at Regis College, Henderson House of Northeastern University, and other venues. In addition, Weston residents patronize liquor stores conveniently located over the town line in adjacent communities.
In May 2004, Town Meeting voters defeated a home rule petition authorizing the selectmen to issue up to two licenses for stores to sell “wine and malt” but not spirits. No license would be available to a restaurant or bar. The petitioner stated her opinion that the town would benefit from the convenience of a fine wine store. The measure was defeated by a vote of 67 to 97. [Ed: talk about a low turnout]. In 2006, Weston Town Meeting approved a statewide ballot initiative to allow local authorities to issue licenses allowing food stores to sell wine. The ballot vote was 2590 “yes” to 2302 “no.” In May 2007, Town Meeting voters agreed to allow the Omni grocery store to sell wine.
You can read Weston’s current liquor licensing rules in this 20-page document that was updated in 2012. Basically petitioners have to start with the Select Board and then follow a years-long process to approval. So many comments this Owl has, but will content herself with a feathered head shake and a bewildered “huh”? Also, full disclosure, the Owl is most likely to buy wine and liquor at Market Basket or Costco.
Regardless about how you feel about liquor personally and the ability of a small market to sell wine and beer to accompany charcuterie platters and fancy foods, the Owl questions opinions of anonymous email groups. Yesterday’s “Recommendations on Key Issues” email encouraged a “no” vote based on this reasoning: “The FinCom voted to oppose this proposal because it was, essentially, a petition by a commercial enterprise, trying to circumvent the standard process for requests like this one.”
How was the standard process circumvented? The Owl admits to being bewildered about Fin Com even weighing in on this item, as that is actually not part of the standard process–their charter is to be the financial watchdog group. The 2021 Fur Ban Citizen’s Petition had a “no position” from Fin Com. In 2022, the composition of the Select Board from 3 to 5? No position. In 2008, Liquor License for the JST? No position. And that wine license for Omni in 2008 by Citizen’s Petition? No position.
Fin Com, in its March 16 meeting, voted 8-1 to oppose Article 22 (the Citizen’s Petition) with no apparent (to me) financial request from the town. I do not see this “slippery slope” that is referenced by one Fin Com member–is that slope that they might start selling craft beer for $18/bottle and then…oh no! move on to Bud Lite for $5? Why are we even monitoring what people buy at markets? Sorry, this blue law business in Massachusetts is so passé. We’re not opening a “packie” in Weston. As if. So what did Weston Provisions do wrong to earn an opposition from Fin Com? To the videotapes, batman:
On November 15, 2022 (minute 42:30 of the WMC video), Chris Nicholl, one of the co-owners of Weston Provisions, appeared before the Select Board asking “how do we go about” getting a liquor license? Because in the Town of Weston, there is only one liquor license for one food market to sell alcohol and that is currently held by Bros Market. Doubling liquor licenses to TWO does not seem a very sticky wicket to me, but again, Massachusetts, here we are.
During a very long discussion at the Select Board, it was determined that Weston Provisions had enough signatures (more than 200) to call a special town meeting to discuss the issue, but that this would be very expensive to do. It was suggested to wait until regular town meeting in May 2023. All three members of the Select Board commented in one way or another about their support of downtown businesses– “we all want you to succeed” states Laurie Bent. My favorite admonishment, however, comes from Harvey Boshart who tells Chris Nicholl not to treat the presentation at town meeting lightly because, direct quote: “Town Meeting can be weird.” And how.
Jump ahead now to the Finance Committee meeting of March 16, 2023 when the Finance Committee is discussing which positions they will take on the articles of Town Meeting. Regarding this item, one member of Fin Com states “there is a huge financial component here we haven’t talked about”–this could have a “huge financial impact on the town”– and you just completely lost me, mathy folks.
Where is this financial impact? Can we please review the actual size of Weston Provisions as a market? How many bottles of wine can they actually even fit in there? And even if they fit them in there, someone will need to buy them in order to have a “huge financial impact” on the town. I would have to say that yes, this will have a financial impact on Weston Provisions as in, hey, they might actually succeed. Yes, we are DOUBLING the number of liquor licenses in town–feel free to be opposed to that as a resident but why is Fin Com giving a stated printed opinion on a liquor license as a financial impact to this town? I don’t get it. Someone write me a polite letter. “Precedence” means nothing here…the last liquor license was approved in 2008, fifteen years ago. Not exactly clamoring at the gate, are we?
As I understand the charge of Fin Com, it is the official fiscal watchdog of this town. They have a tough job and it’s a volunteer one. In their most recent meeting (April 27–I watch a lot of Weston Media videos while waiting for soccer practice to end), a committee member mentions that the Fin Com has historically been concerned with residents’ quality of life. And are now concerned with things that Weston “needs” to have versus “wants” to have. They are in favor of water tanks, opposed to rhododendrons and pickleball. And somehow this has expanded to a “no” position (not a “no opinion”–straight out opposition) on a liquor license for a single store, as printed in the Town Warrant.
Make up your own mind about this one, Weston. See you Monday at Town Meeting, 7 pm at Weston High School auditorium.
I will vote to support their liquor license and proud to do so. Why are they no longer the owners?
Hannah did not tell me and I did not ask directly. What I know is that owning a small business is really tough work and they have a young family. I am just so sorry about it.
Thanks for the deep dive! So sorry to hear about Chris & Hannah 🙁
You mean a Focus on Weston email was misleading? I’m shocked!!
Thank you for all you do!
Have you reached out to Mark Lucas, He’s been involved since day one He’s a long time business owner and Weston resident. I have spoken to him on a couple of occasions when He has been working Weston Provisions on Saturdays. Best of luck to Mark and his wife Candace !
Yes. And agree!
I’m so sorry to read the news about Chris and Hannah. Their concept was a welcome
one and they put so much time and effort into curating a selection of unusual and high quality gourmet items. Wishing them all the best b
I will personally miss them a lot but am glad that the co-owner Mark Lucas is at the helm and making it happen.
Has anyone even reached out to the new owner? Have been a fan of Weston P ever since it opened. Hannah and Chris did a great job but it’s very unfair to just say “it’s a major loss” without even giving the new owners a new chance. I believe I met the new owner the other day in the store his name was Mark Lucas. A very nice gentleman that seemed very eager and excited to continue to bring delicious sandwiches and charcuterie to the town of Weston. I think we all need to give the new owners and chance and not just jump to conclusions and call it “a major loss”.
Yes, I have spoken with Mark Lucas today and I have adjusted my story to reflect that conversation. I will miss Hannah and Chris and their smiling faces personally but am a huge supporter of Weston Provisions and the roast beef sandwich sitting next to me at this moment is living (and soon to be eaten) proof of it. I am 100% in on Weston Provisions. Eat local!
Happy Mark and Candace have taken over the beautiful establishment. I would be sad if Weston Provision closed. The fried chicken sandwich is delicious and the Cali club. I am in support of the Liquor License; this would be a wonderful addition. Best of luck to both parties.
Totally agree. The roast beef sandwich is the most popular over here but we love all the ones we’ve tried!
Love it when the Owl goes all Op-Ed-y. And the history is fun.