License Commission Hears ABCC Complaint as Bars Try to Navigate COVID-19

One area of the hospitality industry that’s hurting far more than any others are traditional bars and pubs, and the Everett License Commission has been hearing from many that are changing their business models or been written up by state investigators.

On Monday night, the License Commission heard from Kurt of Champions Bar & Grill, who had been cited and warned by state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) investigators for violating the governor’s phasing orders. The License Board had received the report saying customers were drinking without food. Kurt indicated they had worked carefully with the City and set up the café as more of a food service establishment to try to get the business back open. Traditional bars without food service are still barred from opening (no pun intended), and are one of the last establishments allowed under the phased plan.

“The ABCC was never in my establishment,” said Kurt. “They did go down the street and look in the windows and jump to a conclusion. I never had the opportunity to discuss this. There was no violation and they gave me a verbal warning by phone later…I’m just trying to survive. I’m a combat veteran with a wife and four kids. I’ve never had a problem in the bar business. The 4’s in Boston has been around for decades and closed down today. We could be there too. I have to say we have tightened things up a lot since we talked to the state.”

One of the issues cited was people drinking without any food – a violation of the COVID-19 rules. Kurt said the people had ordered drinks and simply got the drinks before they got the pizza and chicken quesadillas. Another issue was a bartender put the glass directly on a high-top table adjacent to the bar. No drinks are to come over the bar in COVID-19 rules.

Additionally, Kurt said it was hard to enforce mask regulations, as people say they have medical issues.

“We did put on security to make sure everyone wears a mask, but it’s hard to enforce that because people say they have a medical issue,” he said.

The Commission took no action after the discussion.

•KARMA LOUNGE

The owner of the hookah tobacco lounge, Varun Panj, on Ferry Street in Glendale Square said he is changing his business model to be more of a restaurant and less of a bar (though he will still primarily sell tobacco), and will move to evict the owner of Winner’s Bar and Grill – located beneath the hookah lounge.

Karma is another establishment looking for a lifeline in the midst of the pandemic, and have pivoted more to serving food and providing tobacco as well.

“The plan is to keep this as a restaurant for Mr. Varun,” said Attorney Mark Rotondo. “Last time he was here you were concerned he was operating this as a discotecque or a nightclub and so this is his new business plan…Again, though, more than 51 percent of his sales will still be for tobacco.”

The owner will use the kitchen downstairs in the Winners Bar and Grill, and he also said he intends to evict the troubled sports bar on the ground floor.

“Because there have been no evictions and no courts have been open, we are kind of between a rock and a hard place with the downstairs tenant,” he said. “We are letting you know and have let the tenant know that once this case is heard before the Supreme Judicial Court about this order being an unlawful taking of personal property, we will file an evictions and go to District Court against them for eviction.”

Panj said once that is done, he will begin to operate the ground floor business himself – as has been discussed previously. Winners has a long history before the Board and has had several run-ins with the Board and police on its operations. The matter was approved 2-0.

•AIRBNB LICENSES

The Board voted 2-0 to accept the ordinance and fee structure that makes it the granting authority for all AirBNB licenses in the City. From here on out, those seeking to license an AirBNB unit will have to come before the License Board.

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