WESTFORD -- A scheduled public hearing on two local establishments caught selling alcohol to an underage investigator with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission was postponed Tuesday evening, but not without a word from the business owners.
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Andrea Peraner-Sweet said a scheduled hearing was postponed on advice from the ABCC, which said investigations into the reported incidents are still ongoing.
On March 12, ABCC investigators visited several places in town, including Evviva Cucina, a newly-opened Italian restaurant, and the Westford Market and Liquors, owned by the same people who run 129 Liquors, Inc., in Billerica.
At Evviva, a bartender reportedly served an 18-year-old investigator a Budweiser beer without carding him. The clerk at Westford Market and Liquors also did not seek identification when the same man purchased a can of Budweiser at the liquor store that night.
On Tuesday night, Nick Harron, manager of Evviva Cucina, which is inside the Cornerstone Square development, attended the hearing with his father, Kevin Harron, CEO and president of the restaurant company Burton's Grill.
Kevin Harron spoke on behalf of his son, saying with the dozens of restaurants they operate and "millions of customers" served, this is the first time he's had to deal with an incident like this.
"We respect and take the laws of Massachusetts ... incredibly seriously and we certainly regret the unfortunate opportunity to appear in front of you," he said. "(My son, Nick) happened to be working that night and I know he feels probably worse than I do so, that's kind of the gist of our story. It was an unfortunate incident. We regret it. It's not how we do business or how we will do business."
Mukesh Patel, owner and operator of Westford Market and Liquors on Carlisle Road with Ramila Patel, told selectmen this problem will be "fixed." He noted his cashier actually asked the man in front of the investigator for I.D., but not the 18-year-old. Patel said this is also the first time this has happened for him since the business opened in town 17 years ago.
"This was just a mistake," he said. "I'm sorry that it happened. ... We will fix it."
Peraner-Sweet said selectmen will wait to hear from the ABCC in their investigation and will decide how to handle the hearings. Under town bylaws, selectmen may impose a suspension of an establishment's liquor license for the offense, ranging from a three-day to a two-week suspension, depending on how many times the offense was committed by the establishment before. For first-time offenses, the penalty is a three-day suspension.
The hearing will be continued until May 13 at Town Hall.
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