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Dedham lawmaker grinds the House of Representatives to a halt to get liquor license for state’s firs

Type:  Articles 
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Aug 20, 2008 @ 09:49 AM

 

BOSTON — It’s unusual for legislative standoffs to emerge when the Legislature is just meeting in informal sessions and few lawmakers are even in the State House.

But that’s exactly what occurred on Monday when Rep. Paul McMurtry, a Democrat from Dedham, forced the House of Representatives’ session to grind to a halt. His motivation: A home rule petition to approve a liquor license for a proposed Wegmans supermarket in Westwood in McMurtry’s district had apparently been stalled.

“My obligation as an elected state rep is to see that this gets addressed and passed and voted on,” McMurtry said. “This was an action that I didn’t take lightly, but an action I thought was necessary to put the bill back in the orders of the day to get heard.”

The Wegmans supermarket, which is being considered for the massive Westwood Station redevelopment project, would be the first Wegmans in New England.

McMurtry said Rep. Angelo Scaccia, a Democrat from Boston, told McMurtry that he would block the bill because it would give Wegmans a competitive advantage against a nearby Roche Bros. store in Westwood.

The Legislature is meeting in lightly attended informal sessions through the end of the year when one member can block a bill.

McMurtry said he is prepared to resume blocking votes when the House meets again on Thursday unless he finds out that the Wegmans liquor license is moving forward.

“This is extremely crucial to whether or not Wegmans signs a lease and whether or not the project moves forward,” McMurtry said.

He noted the liquor license was already approved at Westwood’s town meeting in May, although there was a sizable dissenting vote. Wellesley-based Roche Bros. had tried to convince town meeting voters to reject the license request.

Roche Bros., which has a longstanding grocery store in Westwood, already has three liquor licenses in other locations – the state limit for any retail company.

Jo Natale, director of media relations for Wegmans Food Markets Inc., said the Rochester, N.Y., company hasn’t decided the size of store it would operate or how many people it would employ in Westwood because the company hasn’t signed a lease agreement yet. She said the liquor license for the Westwood location “is very important” to the chain.

“We open just two or three new stores every year, so we are very focused on selecting projects that offer the most potential to our company,” Natale said. “Our most successful projects are those that allow us to take advantage of the synergy between wine and food. We’re hopeful this can be resolved. If it isn’t, we’ll decide what our next step would be.”