Does Chestnut Hill Need Another Corporate Liquor Store?

With Star Market applying for a liquor license, The Urban Grape faces damage to their business

The Urban Grape’s beer specialist Noah Feldman, inside the unique wine shop. (Photo via Boston magazine)

Last week, we learned that Star Market, (part of the Supervalu supermarket group based out of the midwest) is seeking a beer and wine package license for their Chestnut Hill location. This may sound harmless, until you consider the surrounding businesses, more specifically Star Market’s neighboring wine shop, the independently owned and operated Urban Grape—or the fact that Star Market will be doing away with 200 feet of food shelving to provide room for the (unnecessary) addition of liquor.

The Urban Grape isn’t your run-of-the mill wine and spirits shop—in fact, we love them so much that they won the Best Wine Shop award in our Best of Boston issue this past August. Not only is their selection divine, but their unique shelving system and top-notch customer service are far superior to other liquor stores around.

Concerned about the potential damage to their business if the liquor license is granted, UG owners, husband-and-wife team TJ and Hadley Douglas, sent a letter to customers and took to their blog to reach members of the public. What they have to say raises some important questions for our community:

We have heard from countless customers, neighbors and community members that they oppose alcohol sales at Star Market. Star’s application process included no community review meetings with neighborhood groups, something that is unheard of when applying for a new liquor license. There are many questions about how Star will control the sale of alcohol to minors, as well as questions as to what basic food items will now not be carried in a local grocery store to make way for a beer and wine section of this size.

Our position is clear and we’ve been transparent in our encouraging the community to ask the Newton Liquor License Commission to vote against Star Market’s application. While The Urban Grape has only been open for 21 months, a liquor store in one incarnation or another has been servicing the Chestnut Hill Shopping Plaza for over 40 years. We believe that with the addition of GPS Liquors across the street and Winestone on the other corner, there is simply no need for an additional package store license at the intersection of Route 9 and Hammond Street. The community need for access to alcohol has been amply and ably met.

It’s likely that Star Market’s quest for a license in Chestnut Hill could stem from the fact that they’re feeling pressure from the forthcoming cult-fave supermarket Wegmans, which will be opening a location nearby sometime in the near future. But that aside, we have questions. Why was there no community review before their application went forward? With the area already well serviced as far as package stores, why do we need another? And what food and grocery items will no longer be available to make room for their new profits?

The community has largely responded on Facebook, with responses ranging from steadfast support to assertions that Star Market’s targeted booze customer is wholly different than the Urban Grape’s (which the owners took to their blog to address). If you’d like to support the Urban Grape or join the conversation, you can fill out a petition here, and attend Star Market’s Liquor Licensing Hearing tomorrow, February 21, at 7:30 PM in the Newton Town Hall, Room 209.