|North Adams Committee Nixes BYOB Ordinance|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
07:55PM / Wednesday, March 07, 2012
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Governance Committee will recommend the city do without a "bring your own bottle" ordinance, at least for now.
The General Government is recommending the city not institute an ordinance for BYOB restaurants.
The topic has been under debate since last spring, when the owners of Big Shirl's informed the city they would allow it for evening hours and wanted to know if there were any requirements.
The state has no regulations on diners bringing their own bottle of alcohol to restaurants that do not have liquor licenses.
The city's main concern has been over the issue of liability related to someone imbibing alcohol at a restaurant that allows BYOB.
"There is no liability on the city if it does nothing," City Solicitor John DeRosa told the committee on Wednesday. "If you choose to regulate it in some form ... it would fall logically under the Licensing Board, which would then have the obligation to enforce it. If there's any liability one picks up, it's probably at that interface of an enforcement issue — that we properly enfoce our laws."
He said the question the council would have to ask is if such as an ordinance was "necessarily compelling." Since Big Shirl's had reported only a few older diners had brought some bottles of wine since last year, DeRosa said he didn't see a compelling need.
"I don't think we should have any regulation whatsoever," said committee member Jennifer Breen Kirsch, who had spoken with the solicitor prior to the meeting. "It's incumbent upon the restaurant to accept the liability."
Committee member Marie Harpin agreed but Chairman Keith Bona asked what mechanism the city could use if patrons got out of hand at a BYOB restaurant, especially considering the problems that have arisen at permitted pouring establishments.
There are already state and local ordinances related to noise and disturbances that would cover a lot of the problems, said City Councilor Lisa Blackmer, who attended the meeting as did Councilor Nancy Bullett. "Most of the problems we've had with liquor establishments have not been restaurants, they've been, basically, bars."
Mayor Richard Alcombright was concerned the city would be held responsible if there was an accident. "The first place they're going to come running is the city and ask why didn't you control that? Why did that happen?" he said. "Whether we have liability or not, I can still see that happening."
Blackmer said it could happen, because "anybody can file suit against anybody ... That doesn't mean they can win." DeRosa suggested such an incident would be more a political issue because the city would not be liable, a position Blackmer said she had confirmed with the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.
Alcombright said he would put together an administrative policy as guidance for any restaurants that want BYOB but would not put the city into an enforcement position.
"We've kind of come full circle," said Bona. "I think the big question was the liability. Is the city liable? I think we've gotten our answer on that."