Change in law could allow cocktails along River Walk

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WESTBROOK — For years the River Walk has been a nice place for a stroll and to take in the views of the Presumpscot River, but a matter scheduled to come before city councilors this month could make it a nice place to sit and enjoy an adult beverage as well.

City staff is working on an amendment to the municipal liquor license ordinance that would allow restaurants to serve alcohol on city-owned property near their buildings so long as the seating is cordoned off and has proper signage.

The amendment stems from a change in state law that will go into effect Aug. 1 that permits the sale and consumption of alcohol in an area that doesn’t directly border a “licensed premises.”

“We are currently working on amending our definitions/ordinances to afford this practice per the state requirements,” said City Planner Jennie Franceschi. “The City Clerk is working to get this language before the council in July so that it will coincide with the timing of the state language being in effect.”

Once a final draft is ready, City Administrator Jerre Bryant said he will recommend that the City Council refer it to a meeting of the committee of the whole for discussion.

“Most of them are familiar with it, but I would like some sort of discussion and opportunity for a Q&A,” he said.

Westbrook Economic Development Director Dan Stevenson said the allowance only applies to setting up an oudoor seating area on public property. The River Walk is one of two areas in the city where the new rules would have an impact. Several restaurants, including Legends Rest Tap Room, Fajita Grill, Blue Fin Poke and The Frog and Turtle have entrances/exits facing the River Walk.

The other site is at Westbrook Commons, also known as Blue Note Park.

Stevenson said he has been talking with the owners of Legends Rest Tap Room, a relatively new restaurant that opened behind Big Fin Poke on Main Street, about being the first restaurant in the city to take advantage of the ordinance amendment.

Tom Minervino, who owns the restaurant with his sister Meg Minervino and business partner Mike Barton, said he is hoping the logistics can be worked out between now and Aug. 1, when the new law would take effect.

“It’s a great spot on the River Walk across from our restaurant. It is nice and wide. We think we could have some tables out there for people to have some food and drinks. With the other restaurants there, I think it would add a lot to the city,” he said.

The arrangement to serve alcohol in a non-contiguous space would have to be approved by the city, as well as the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. Also, under the new law, the restaurant could not sell or serve alcohol past 11 p.m. or one hour after the kitchen closes, whichever is earlier.

Stevenson said adding outdoor dining along the River Walk would allow the city to have a unique dining experience for the public.

“Part of the reasons we are doing this is we want to bring people to our downtown,” he said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

Sections of the River Walk along the Presumpscot River could by August be new places for outdoor dining thanks to a new state law and planned ordinance adjustment.

City officials and owners of Legend’s Rest Tap Room are working together to make the restaurant the first in the city to offer outdoor dining, including alcohol consumption, on public property in light of a new state law.

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