A meeting to discuss the potential application for a license to sell beer and wine by the at the corner of Berkeley and Appleton Streets produced some animated discussion last night, and highlighted existing concerns over the 24-hour nature of the convenience store and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
Roughly 30 people attended the meeting, which was hosted by the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association, including Tabitha Bennett from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, Captain Paul Ivens from the Boston Police, the commanding officer of Area D-4, and Sgt. Gino Provenzano, Area D-4 community service officer.
At the start of the meeting, Kristen Scanlon, an attorney representing the 7-Eleven franchisees, Olti and Antoneta Kadilli, told the assembled residents that the store has not filed an application with the city yet, and that it was their intention to discuss the issue with the neighborhood and seek its blessing before moving forward.
“Our intention was to come to you first,” Scanlon said. “And then apply to the city with your support.”
She said her clients understand the sensitive nature of their request, and ensured the room that the license being sought is only to sell beer and wine, and not hard liquor. She continued to say that the Kadilli’s are committed to not selling single beers, 40 ounce bottles or pints—items that tend to draw precisely the element neighbors wish to chase from their streets.
Scanlon assured residents that no alcoholic beverages would be sold after 11 p.m., but that promise did little to assuage fears that adding alcohol to an area that is already beset by drugs, prostitution and panhandlers would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.
The strongest opposition came from those who live nearby and say that the store’s hours are contributing to the area’s problems.
“We’re having issues that we have never seen before,” said Angela Russo of Appleton Street. “We have a huge drug population in this neighborhood and a huge prostitute population. The only people out between midnight and 7 a.m. are people we wouldn’t want to cross paths with, and now you want to add alcohol to the mix?”
Russo also stated her belief that late night employees of the store may be complicit in the activities taking place outside. An allegation that Scanlon and the Kadilli’s vehemently denied.
Scanlon replied that the position of she and her clients is that the drugs and prostitution are issues that have nothing to do with the store.
Many residents voiced their opinion that these problems did not exist in the area before the store at 55 Berkeley St. went to a 24-hour cycle of operation.
“We have more problems with stores that sell alcohol than those that don’t,” said Captain Ivens. “And more problems wherever there is alcohol, as a general rule.
“It all depends on the management of the store,” he added. “If the owners take care of business, usually there is no problem.”
Sgt. Provenzano added that 24-hour stores tend to have more issues than purveyors of alcohol.
“Twenty-four hour stores generate more complaints than places that sell alcohol,” he said. “I was surprised to see a 24-hour store in a residential neighborhood. It seems like that would be the issue to tackle first.”
Room for Compromise
The majority of the room agreed, and many stated that if the store were to try and lobby 7-Eleven corporate headquarters to be allowed to no longer operate 24 hours a day, the support for the beer and wine license might follow such an occurrence. Some franchisees, such as the Kadilli’s, are contractually obligated to operate 24 hours a day.
One resident asked Olti Kadilli if, in his opinion, it was worth it to remain open 24 hours, to which he replied that he does not believe it is, before reiterating that he is bound by contract to do so.
One thing that was made clear was the fact that there is desire amongst some residents to see the store stock beer and wine, although it would be a stretch to call it widespread, based upon last night’s proceedings.
But the key issue here is clearly the operating hours.
“The thing on everyone’s mind is safety,” said a resident of 50 Appleton St. “If the hours change, the late night safety issue goes away.”
Although some residents did level accusations against the franchisees, such as knowingly selling drug paraphernalia, many also spoke positively of the couple’s stewardship of the store.
“As franchisees, the Kadilli’s are far better than the previous ones,” said a Berkeley Street resident, who said she lives directly upstairs from the store. “I still have concerns; we do have a consistent drug problem at the laundromat downstairs ... but I won’t say that I haven’t gone in there and gotten ice cream at 12 a.m.”
Another resident, who stated he has lived in the area for many years, said criticism of the franchisees for the neighborhood's problems was misplaced.
“It’s wrong to say that because the store is open all night, that’s why these problems exist,” he said. “It’s in our best interests to have this store be profitable and well run.”
As one Appleton Street resident, who did not wish to be identified by name, put it: “Many neighbors say if the hours were addressed, they may support the beer and wine license ... That’s the only way forward.”
Scanlon indicated that her clients were open to addressing the issue, and looking into the possibility of limiting their operating hours—per the approval of 7-Eleven corporate headquarters.
After more back and forth, the meeting was adjourned with the understanding that the Kadilli’s would look into what it would take to limit operating hours and bring this matter up with the neighborhood again at a later date.