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Select Board Grants Two Retail Cannabis Licenses

Skybox to become a Tewksbury branch of the popular Brothers Sports Bar & Grille

The Select Board met last night with all members present.

Kayla Perry O’Donnell and Peter Tsianakas appeared for Brothers Sports Bar & Grille seeking a common victualler license. Brothers, which specializes in wings and pizza, has a location in Dracut. They are in the process of purchasing and rebranding the Skybox, at 553 Main St.

Tsianakas said the new eatery will have more of a restaurant versus a bar feel, with lower-key acoustic music on weekends. They will be back in front of the Select Board requesting a liquor license in August. 

“We plan to revive and transform the place,” said Tsianakas. “Walls, floors, new furniture, new equipment. Right now I think the Skybox is set up more as a bar, live entertainment, music. We’re looking to do a family-style restaurant and sports bar.”

He said a November or December opening is planned. The common victualler license was approved unanimously. 

The board set Monday, Oct. 2 as the date for the fall 2023 Special Town Meeting. Member Jayne Wellman confirmed with Town Manager Richard Montuori that the date does not conflict with any holidays. The warrant will open July 19 and close at 12:30 p.m. on August 18.

Residents seeking to submit citizen articles will need 100 signatures. The form and instructions are available here.

The board then moved to committee and board openings. Chair Todd Johnson reminded residents that it’s not too late to apply. 

Available openings:
Conservation Commission: 1 
Economic Development: 6
Green Committee: 1
Historic Commission: 1
Local Historic District Study Committee: 1
Massachusetts Cultural Council: 11
Tewksbury Beautification Committee: 1
Tewksbury Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee: 3

Learn more about how to apply for one of these openings — and get your name in asap as the date has been extended, though not indefinitely.

Firefighter/EMT Michael Donovan was unanimously approved to serve as a special municipal employee, as a TPD traffic control guard.

After approving the town counsel’s invoice and several sets of minutes, members made their committee reports:

Member Mark Kratman reported that the MBTA advisory board met and that the group is working on maintenance issues and improvements. The LRTA meeting is tomorrow.

Wellman said that NMCOG had its retreat on a Saturday and is launching a strategic planning process. NMCOG will reach out to boards and town staff and work regionally to get feedback on what residents would like to see.

She also highlighted that the Tewksbury Public Library has brought back one-on-one technology help sessions, which are popular with seniors. Any resident may sign up for a Friday session here.

At this point, member James Mackey left the meeting, as he has recused himself from votes on retail cannabis licensing. The board reopened hearings on the eight companies seeking to open shops in Tewksbury.

Johnson thanked applicants for participating in the process, their interest in Tewksbury and supplying requested information but stated that some applicants would be disappointed.

“We had eight interested parties, we only have three licenses,” he said. “It’s reflective of what I believe is a competitive process. And I think that’s a benefit to the town of Tewksbury. I can also say that I know that my colleagues and I each did our own research and came to our own conclusions based on what was provided by you, what the regulations dictate that we consider and what we believe is right for our community.”

Johnson said he placed a lot of weight on capitalization, prior experience, location and owners who are also operators as he believes that presents less risk for the town. He weighed and considered original letters from residents, and those who attended a meeting in person.

“I also want to express some disappointment in a couple of instances of anonymous mailings, attacking applications or proposed locations,” he said. “Those efforts did not represent the best that we can be.”

Both Johnson and Wellman also called out a flood of form letters generated by supporters of Bella Luna and Carbonear, a tactic that clearly didn’t help their causes.

“This in no way was a popularity contest, in my opinion, or a political campaign as one request for an email suggested,” he said. “And I don’t believe this board will take its votes tonight in that manner. Rather, we’re striving to do what each of us here thinks is right for the town.” 

Wellman concurred with Johnson’s comments and called today “a great and exciting day” for Tewksbury based on new business opportunities. Her guiding principles were financials, minimal impact on residents and opportunities to gain market share to maximize the revenue back to the community.

“I have no desire to turn Tewksbury into the cannabis capital of Merrimack Valley vis a vis billboard advertisements,” she said. “We will make these decisions based on substance.”

Kratman added that he reviewed every retail cannabis application in much the same way he’s reviewed other applications. 

“When I review any development that comes to our town, first thing I ask myself is, does this make our community better? Does this help that area? Does it cause a problem in a certain neighborhood?” he said, adding that he also visited dispensaries and spoke with town managers and police chiefs.

He called out traffic as one of his key concerns and said his decisions were largely based on location.

“I know what will cause traffic concerns and what won’t,” he said. “I appreciate everybody coming forward to us, but I’m basing my vote on wherever I think is the best locations for our community.”

Holland echoed all his colleagues’ comments and thanked the Planning Board for their hard work in vetting and approving site plans.

Johnson said the intention of the board was to have a positive or negative dispensation on each applicant. Any approved license comes with caveats: a signed agreement with the town, that the location remains the same and that there can be no transfer of the license.

Two licenses were granted, to Smyth and Lazy River. Here’s how the voting tallied:

Sundaze, 2504 Main St., at the former Sal’s location: Motion to deny: Kratman Second: Holland – 4-0
*Lazy River, 553 Main St., next to Job Lots: Motion to approve with caveats noted above: Kratman  Second: Holland – 3-1 (Wellman nay)
Full Harvest Moonz, 1 Main St., on the Lowell line: Motion to deny: Kratman  Second: Holland – 3-1 (Wellman nay)
The Stories Company, 2122 Main St., next to Donna’s Donuts: Motion to deny: Kratman  Second: Wellman – 4-0
Community Care Collective, 1693 Shawsheen St.: Motion to deny: Kratman  Second: Wellman – 4-0
*Smyth Cannabis, 1695 Shawsheen St., wooded lot next to Keri Plaza/Luna Rossa: Motion to approve with caveats noted above: Wellman Second: Kratman – 4-0
Bella Luna, 890 East St., the former TriWire building: Motion to deny: Kratman  Second: Holland – 3-1 (Wellman nay)
Carbonear, 2186-2196 Main St., next to Boudreau’s Auto: Motion to deny: Wellman  Second: Kratman – 3-1 (Holland nay)

Those companies that were denied could come back to request the third license, but they would need to start over with a new proposal that, ideally, addresses the issues that caused the current plan to fail. 

The next meeting of the Select Board will be August 8.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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