Concerns Expressed Over Liquor License Request At New Berlin Retail Store

Concerns Expressed Over Liquor License Request At New Berlin Retail Store
The planned Viking Tree Trading Co. business will be located in the former Downtown Video building. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Concerns regarding another liquor license in town dominated the public comment portion of a council meeting this week.

A handful of residents and representatives of downtown businesses told the Berlin Town Council Tuesday they did not want to see Viking Tree Trading Co., a business set to open soon on Main Street, with a liquor license. The shop, which is being operated by the parents of Burley Oak’s Bryan Brushmiller, has applied for a Class B beer, wine and liquor license and has a hearing with the Worcester Board of License Commissioners (BLC) Monday.

Dave Gaskill, the town’s attorney, advised those interested in the license application to share their concerns with the BLC.

“If you feel strongly about it go to the hearing,” he said.

Though the issue was not on the agenda, citizens in attendance said they were under the impression the license was being discussed Tuesday.

Resident Carol Rose, who is also chair of the Berlin Historic District Commission, was the first to voice her objections.

“When the owner of that property came to the historic district commission, we were informed it was a retail shop,” she said. “I do not think we need a bar on Main Street. We already have several restaurants with bars. I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Resident Ernie Gerardi, who owns several downtown properties, agreed. He pointed out the downtown area had six restaurants that served liquor and said five of them had substantial food offerings.

“To permit liquor with retail is inappropriate and I don’t think it really blends well,” he said. “Just think if every retail store starts selling liquor.”

Jeremy Blackford, who works at Burley Inn Tavern, said the town was already saturated with businesses that served alcohol.

“Having another outlet is overdoing it,” he said. “It’s overkill.”

Resident Kim Holloway said she didn’t think the town needed another establishment that served alcohol until it got a handle on the existing issues associated with special events that involved alcohol. She said she’d seen public urination between newspaper boxes and raucous behavior in the hours after some of the town’s events.

“I think we really need to get a handle on our streets,” she said.

Nicole Brushmiller encouraged anyone with concerns to reach out to Viking Tree Trading Co.

“I would encourage people to talk to the owners,” she said. “My in-laws are going to open this business. I think what the public perception is versus the vision for this business is not the same thing.”

She added that the community should have more open conversation and less talk behind closed doors. She stressed that Viking Tree Trading Co. was a retail shop.

“Their purpose is to give more an experience of travels and adventure,” she said. “They bring back cool merchandise and also some crafted drinks they may see on their adventures. As far as a place where you’re out til 2 in the morning doing shots at, not happening.”

Rose asked why the town’s planning director hadn’t been informed the shop would serve alcohol when he visited.

Brushmiller referred to “evolving business creativity.”

Rose said no one had known about the plans for alcohol until the BLC’s hearing was advertised.

“The communication issue is on your end,” she said.

Summer Frederick, who works at the Burley Inn Tavern, said she didn’t understand why Viking Tree Trading Co. had applied for a liquor license for a 75-seat restaurant with a 12-seat bar if it was primarily a retail shop.

“We’re just confused where this space for 75 seats and 12 seats at a bar is going to fit into a 1,300-square-foot building,” she said.  “We just want answers.”

At the request of town officials, Gaskill explained that the business, which is located in the former Downtown Video building, would have a hearing with the BLC on Nov. 19 at 1:10 p.m.

“That board decides whether to issue a liquor license to this establishment,” he said.

He said the town leaders did not decide that issue.

“What the applicant will need to show among other things is that there is a public need for a license at that location,” he said.

Burley Oak’s Bryan Brushmiller told those in attendance he thought the shop would benefit the town.

“I’d just like to say that I believe in abundance,” he said. “There’s enough for everyone. Everything that we do in the town of Berlin is to benefit the town. By no means do we think that we’re trying to take a piece that’s going to hurt somebody else.”

He said more was better.

“We are a town of tourism,” he said. “We like to promote things that bring people to our town. We’re a very seasonal town and there are many people that work in the food and beverage industry that benefit from work. This is a means to increase tourism, increase the people that drive down our streets, walk down our sidewalks, shop in our shops and see our wonderful town of Berlin.”

According to the report that will be presented to the BLC Monday, applicants Timothy Lee Brushmiller and Adam Richard Davis are seeking a Class B license for Viking Tree Trading Co. at 114 N. Main St.

“Ryan Maccubbin, the general manager of Burley Oak Food and Beverage Operations since January 2018, will manage the property,” the report reads. “He was previously the general manager of Barn 34 in Ocean City for five years. It will be a restaurant and bar serving comfort food and artesian sandwiches.”

The report states that 1,200 square feet will be used for customer seating while the other 100 square feet of the building will be used for food preparation. The report states that there will be 75 seats at tables and 12 seats at the bar. According to the report the business will operate from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week and will employ about 20 people.

On Wednesday, Bryan Brushmiller said his family was taken aback by the negative reactions from the business community.

“We are surprised of the reaction of a few business people in town,” he said. “As business owners ourselves, we are just trying to set the store up for success, create a unique experience and bring more people to our town.   We are considering tabling the license in order to give an opportunity to the community to come by and voice any concerns they may have regarding that business and see the vision that we have in mind for the space.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.