WELLFLEET — The select board voted unanimously on Dec. 6 to deny a seasonal liquor license extension request from Wellfleet Wine and Spirits, the store on Route 6 in the Cumberland Farms building that was formerly a Liquor ’N More franchise, because the extension would hurt local year-round businesses.
Julie Seabury, owner of the Wellfleet Spirits Shoppe on Main Street, told the board that the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s weeks are crucial ones for businesses like hers that stay open all year.
“Anybody who has a year-round business in Wellfleet knows that the holidays are your last opportunity to actually bring in some money to cushion you through the rest of the winter,” Seabury said.
She offered the board a petition with over 100 signatures from residents and customers, saying that it was conducted on behalf of her and Alan Kogos, owner of Wellfleet’s other year-round liquor store, Seaside Liquors. The board members flipped through the pages of their copies of the petition as Seabury made her case.
Wellfleet Wine and Spirits opened two years ago and in both years has requested a 45-day extension of its seasonal license. Last year, the request was granted, and the store stayed open through Jan. 15.
But last year’s extension was granted as a measure of Covid relief, said Vice Chair Michael DeVasto. “We were making exceptions for restaurants and all sorts of businesses under Covid,” DeVasto told Wellfleet Wine and Spirits owner Nilesh Mafatia, who lives in Sandwich and joined the hybrid meeting via Zoom.
“We need to get back to the intent and purposes of these licenses now that we are moving forward from the pandemic,” DeVasto said.
Mafatia applied for the extension on Nov. 22, just eight days before his seasonal license was to expire on Nov. 30. The last-minute application, coupled with clerical errors, led to the town allowing him to stay open past his seasonal closure date until the select board meeting on Dec. 6, said Rebekah Eldridge, executive assistant to the town administrator.
Mafatia owns several other year-round liquor stores across the Cape, including ones in Dennis and Yarmouth, according to Seabury. “He owns multiple stores, and he doesn’t hire locally,” she said.
Mafatia declined to comment for this article.
“When a seasonal liquor license can extend through the holiday season, it takes away from the last intake of extra cash I can get,” Seabury told the Independent after the meeting. “Last December and January, we took a hit.”
A year-round liquor license for package stores costs $1,500, while a seasonal one is $1,600. But the costs of liquor liability insurance and keeping the store open amount to much more than the expense of operating a seasonal store, Seabury said.
Holiday sales proceeds go primarily to cover payroll, she said, but this year she’s thinking about fuel costs, too. “I keep my lights on, and I keep my heat on,” Seabury said. “A seasonal store can just shut the door and shut the heat off.”
Year-round retail shops are a rare thing in Wellfleet. “Sometimes,” Seabury said, “I’m the only light on Main Street.”
The number of annual liquor licenses a town can issue is based on population and is adjusted every 10 years according to census data. Right now there is a cap of two licenses for year-round all-alcohol package stores in Wellfleet, according to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Wellfleet Spirits Shoppe and Seaside Liquors hold them.
There is no limit, however, on the number of seasonal licenses the town can issue, said Eldridge.
Wellfleet Wine and Spirits closed its doors following the Dec. 6 select board meeting. On Dec. 12, Seabury said she had already noticed an uptick in weekend business. The select board’s vote was, she said, “a vote for small business.”