CHARLESTOWN — The owners of an upscale cigar lounge in Westerly want to open a similar establishment in Charlestown, but their effort encountered a big hurdle in the town’s beverage and licensing board.
The board on Monday voted 2-1 to deny an application by Vintage Cigar LLC, owned by local resident Greg Williams and Hopkinton resident Jesse Saglio, to sell liquor at the proposed location at 10 Crossland St., which is in a commercial area near the intersection of Route 1 and South County Trail. Vintage Cigar is seeking a five-year lease at the Crossland Street location.
Charlestown’s Town Council also acts as the Beverage and Licensing Board to approve or deny such applications after a public hearing. But the board was short two of its members for Monday’s vote.
Council President Virginia Lee and councilor Bonnie Van Slyke recused themselves because William Stedman, the owner of the building where the cigar lounge would be located, has done plumbing work for both of them, they said.
William Nardone, the attorney for the applicants, said they have the right to appeal the decision to the state’s liquor control authority, and would be weighing whether to do so.
Williams and Nardone spent more than an hour Monday presenting the application and answering questions from the board and responding to comments from the public. Nardone noted that the zoning designation for the property permits the business to operate there with a class C alcoholic beverage license, which limits sales to midnight.
“We sell cigars and pipe tobacco,” Williams said, referring to the location in downtown Westerly, which has been open for two years. “Premium hand-rolled cigars and pipe tobacco.”
Board member George Tremblay supported the application.
“I’m an advocate of benign vice, and this seems like a good operation,” Tremblay said.
But members Denise Rhodes and Julie Carroccia voted to deny the application.
“Clearly people respect what you’ve done in Westerly,” Carroccia said. But she also heard from neighbors who had concerns.
“I have to respect the people from the neighborhood that have come out,” she said.
Members of the public who live in homes near the proposed business expressed reservations about issues such as whether there would be adequate parking, the 1 a.m. closing time and whether the site was appropriate.
“There is a place in Charlestown, but I don’t think that is the place to do it,” Rhodes said. “The residential area that’s been there a long time has to be taken into account.”
Williams said several times he has no intention of seeking a permit for live entertainment at the site, though he did ask for permission to host as many as six outdoor events such as special dinners per year.
“I run a very tight ship in Westerly,” Williams, a retired police officer, said. “I intend to do the same in Charlestown.”
The business also would not have a kitchen, but would be able to serve prepackaged food. Smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping would be prohibited, Williams said.
“It gives our establishment a little bit more class,” he said. “I don’t want a place where somebody would come just to smoke a pack of Marlboros and have a six-pack of Budweiser. That’s not what we’re looking to do.”