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FRAMINGHAM – On Monday night, November 21, the 5-member Framingham License Commission will listen to an application from Fashionable Concepts LLC To transfer its all-alcohol license to The Fresh Market.

The Fresh Market wants to redevelop the vacant Bed Bath & Beyond at 84 Worcester Road into a grocery store, that has fresh produce, prepared foods and wine, craft beer, & spirits.

The City of Framingham has no more all-alcohol licenses to award to businesses. They have issued the maximum number of licenses.

In March of 2022, the Framingham License Commission approved an all-alcohol license to Fashionable Concepts LLC to redevelop the vacant Papa Gino’s site on Cochituate Road. The Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission approved that license in April.

But Fashionable Concepts never opened, and this summer began negotiations to sell its all-alcohol license it received from the City of Framingham at $0 (not counting the about $2,000 license fee) to The Fresh Market for $360,000.

That sale of an all-alcohol license did not sit well with Framingham License Commission Chair Stuart Pologe.

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Earlier this month, he requested a revocation hearing for the all-alcohol license for Fashionable Concepts LLC as it never opened its business and never used the license it was issued. All-licenses are scheduled for renewal in November and December 2022 for 2023.

In March, Dan Newcomb, a liquor store broker, told the Framingham License Commission he planned to open an upscale, boutique liquor store at 341 Cochituate Road. 

Fashionable Concepts was awarded the lone all-alcohol license left in the City over established businesses & applicants, Metro Market at 290 Worcester Road and Makari’s Market at 1 Hamilton Street.

Now, Fashionable Concepts wants the Framingham License Commission to agree to the all-alcohol license transfer to The Fresh Market.

If the License Commission agrees, the City will have a vacant property redeveloped, The Fresh Market gets the a license that is not available at this time, but Fashionable Concepts makes a $360,000 profit on the license.

In the history of Framingham, there has never been a license that has been sold without a business attached to it.

But it appears there is nothing legally, the License Commission can do either.

Back in the spring, several Commissioners were worried that Newcomb would never use the license and just turn around and sell it to the highest bidder, as it was the last one available.

But Newcomb told the Commissioners “I’m an entrepreneur and I try to create value where there is none,” he said of redeveloping the vacant pizza parlor.

“If I was to tell you that I wouldn’t consider selling this store, that wouldn’t be an accurate statement,” he said. But he also told the Commissioners. “I fully intend to execute the plan” presented.

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Now, in November, the attorney for Fashionable Concepts LLC Bill Kelley said plans changed and the plan is not to open a. business at the former Papa Gino’s but instead to transfer the license at a cost of $360,000 to The Fresh Market.

Pologe made a motion at the November 7 hearing to revoke the all-alcohol license for Fashionable Concepts LLC, but none of the other four Commissioner seconded the motion. So, no action was taken.

Commissioner Marquis Lipton asked “Is there a license to revoke if they haven’t satisfied the condition precedent to the license issuing?”

New City of Framingham Solicitor Kathryn Fallon said since the ABCC issued a license in April, there is a license to revoke.

“You’ve already granted this license so you have to take some action in accordance with the statute on revoking or canceling this for non-use of the license. It naturally would’ve come to the Board’s attention on in this month anyway, on the renewal application as well because it’s a requirement for the business to state that it’s open and operating for business on the renewal application,” said Attorney Fallon. “So the fact that the board’s taking it up now would’ve had to have taken it up anyway in non renewing based on the renewal application cuz there’s no way that the business can say it’s open and operating.”

“So you’ve put us in an awkward position in that we turn down two other applicants based on something that’s not coming to fruition. So that’s a difficult spot for us to be in and you know had stated that you fully intend to execute the plan that you’ve talked about and it’s not happened. And I understand that you’ve gotta approval faster than you thought, but it’s been nine months since we’ve started these conversations with you and you’ve been approved for seven and nothing’s been happening,” said Commissioner Tiel Wadland to Newcomb on November 7.

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License Commission Chair Pologe said to Newcomb that the discussion further “emphasized the fact that you have conflicting business interests, one of potentially starting a business and another with brokering licenses. I think those two businesses are incompatible with each other.”

“Certainly in the interest of opening a business in this community, which was the explicit desire for this board to have done and was explicitly expressed as the direct attempt for Fashionable Concepts to open a business in Framingham at the specific location. I believe the transfer attempt of the license is not only premature but it appears to me I am one opinion out of five here,” said Chair Pologe. “But it appears to me that it is an end run around the authority of this Board to decide who gets a license, where it is going to be operated, the type and sort of business that is going to operate in that space. It appears to me, in my one opinion, that it looks like a quick sale of a license for $360,000 with no effort or demonstrated attempt to have opened that business that was expressed” to the Commission back in March.

While the other Commissioners did not support the revoke motion, they did express displeasure with Fashionable Concepts LLC.

“I watched that meeting, the one that I wasn’t at, and Mr. Newcomb was asked, would you ever transfer this license? And he said, my intention is to open a business, but I’m a businessman and I’ll transferred if it’s in my best interest. So in that regard, I don’t think he lied. And for that reason, I’m not happy with the outcome. As a taxpayer though, I’d like to be responsible and acknowledging kind of our fault in this for not doing as much homework as we perhaps should have. And obviously we like to believe everything that people tell us, but that’s not the case here. So in my opinion, I’m walking away unhappy. But my recommendation would be to take no action on this at this time,” said Commissioner Sara Porter.

“I concur with this Porter. This definitely leaves a bad taste of my mouth, but if we’re likely to be overturned by the ABCC anyway, I think we’ve learned a lesson for next time. Yeah, I don’t think it makes any sense to move to revoke it,” said Commissioner Lipton.

“I kind of agree with that. Sara, and Marcus. I don’t know how we could known this, but they knew that every 10 years licenses become available and doing a quick Google look. (Fashionable Concepts) went with the same presentation with the same concept to Malden, Quincy, Lynn New Bedford, and Norwood. We didn’t have any way to know this. I think that we tried our best. I feel bad for the other two applicants. They have been in Town…. They are hard working people, and I just feel like we failed them,” said Commissioner Laura Medrano.

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Newcomb said on November 7 “With all due respect, we never had possession of the space. We had a letter of intent and we were working on those. When I sent this letter to the Board (Framingham License Commission), this was the truth that we were working these things forward. Fresh Market had not approached us. We were working these trying to get caught up what we were going to do and we were approached by other operators along the way. We said no thank you. We’re not sure what we’re gonna do. We’re working on it. And then Fresh Market came.

“I never led the board to believe that I was in the space working on it. Never because I did not have access to the space. So I’m sorry if it was misunderstood, but I truly did not have access to the space until we signed the lease and after we got we, the ABCC approval was so quick it just put us behind. So I’m confident that my conversation with the board when I presented was accurate and my integrity was intact. And I’m sorry that it’s come into question,,” said Newcomb.

“So “I think that the whole intention was to broker this license and we were mislead and I just hope other (License) Boards take note of how to deal with you when you come” back to the reports. That’s all I have to say.” before them,” said Commissioner Medrano.

“I agree with Ms. Porter about we’ve learned our lesson, we learned it the hard way,” said Commissioner Wadland. “I just have to laugh and I probably did when attorney Kelly said he would trust that we would do the right thing. And I sit here and I think, well, we trusted Mr. Newcomb when he came in and told us what he was going to do and it didn’t happen. And so we are learning a hard lesson. So I’m along the same page, and quite frankly, I think I’d rather have Fresh Market in here doing business in the City of Framingham rather than Mr. New Newcomb and his Fashionable Concepts. So I think we’ll be better off in the long run, and he may have $360,000 in his pocket, but we’ll have a nice market to go to that would probably be better than what he offered us.”

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“In taking no action, what we are in a sense doing is condoning this action, which I will be on the record as believing is the wrong thing for this Board to do. I feel that this Board was played by someone who was a little more artful than us and is now going to be rewarded for a disingenuous application that they have made. However, there’s a second action that will have to happen now, which is we will hear the transfer application at our next meeting (November 21), and we have to re-litigate whether or not we believe that Fresh Market is the proper organization for the license to be transferred to. But we will also have to decide whether or not the license is renewed in our end of year license renewals because it’s going to be difficult for them to transfer the license if we do not renew the license and they are not legally able to renew the license for a business that is not operating,” said Chair Pologe.

Coming before the License Commission for The Fresh Market will be attorney Adam Barnosky, the former chair of the Framingham License Commission.

Barnosky, is with the Boston law firm Ruberto, Israel & Weiner.

He told the Framingham License Commission on November 7, that a revocation of the Fashionable Concepts license, would like go to the ABCC for appeal and possible the courts, and that delay could alter The Fresh market’s plan to come to MetroWest, specifically Framingham.

“The sale of a package store license, not being in conjunction with the sale of an ongoing business or the assets of a business goes against long-standing policy and precedent of the City of Framingham and previously to its Board of Selectmen,” said Chair Pologe to SOURCE.

“This license was awarded to create a new and unique business, at an agreed location, for the benefit of our community. Sale of that license, without having satisfied the obligations of that award, in my opinion, tramples the will of this board and provides no material benefit to the city or its residents. When a license broker is inserted, access to package store licenses become less accessible to independent operators, as the cost to do business is inflated by the license broker. In this example the cost to do business in our City is bloated by $360,000,” said Commissioner Chair Pologe to SOURCE.

Resident who would like to be heard on the all-alcohol license transfer can tune into the Meeting on Zoom Monday night at 7.

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.