Espresso martinis in Portsmouth? Not in my backyard, said several local residents.
Despite several residents' objections, the Portsmouth Town Council approved Custom House Coffee's request for a liquor license on Monday night.
The vote was 4-3 with Judi Staven, Liz Pedro and Paul Kesson in opposition.
There will be some restrictions, however. The coffee shop must not provide alcohol outside on the patio and only serve drinks between the hours of noon and 9 p.m.
Only two residents spoke in favor of Custom House Coffee's request for a liquor license during the public hearing even though hundreds of residents signed petitions in approval.
"This is a very, very nice situation. I don't go there regularly, but I go there often," Kathleen Melvin said. "I hope you would give it favorable attention."
Several residents said they opposed the liquor license due to the shop's proximity to the Kings Grant Fellowship Church and the Portsmouth Abbey, a private school. State law prohibits any establishment to serve liquor within 200 feet of a church.
"I don't think you should vote for this. I don't want serving alcohol anywhere near a religious establishment," Peter Roberts said. "Next thing you know, it will be near schools."
"As an abutter, right in my backyard, I don't want them serving alcohol. It's going to turn into a restaurant-type bar now in the nighttime," said Joe Izzi.
"I'm very concerned about the neighbors in the neighborhood being impacted," Councilor Liz Pedro said.
Letters were sent in May to Kings Grant development residents. An informational meeting was also held at the coffee shop during the summer. Very few residents attended the meeting.
The shop's owners said the reason behind the push for a liquor license is due to the economy. Plans to put bridge tolls on the new Sakonnet River Bridge has raised concern with small business owners in town.
"Everyone knows, there's a lot of concern with the tolls coming up. Mark and I are concerned about how that will affect our business...We're very concerned," Custom House co-owner George Doumaney said.
Custom House Coffee currently operates shops in Middletown and Portsmouth, with a third shop to open this summer in Fall River, MA. The Middletown store has operated with a liquor license since last year.
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