Local Government and Politics, News

Peabody council denies Albanian Club pathway to liquor license

Albanian Boston Community Center has appealed the decision of Peabody City Council suspending its special permit for three months. (Libby O'Neill)

PEABODY — In the wake of a unanimous decision by the City Council to deny any pathway to serving or consuming alcohol at the Howley Street location of the Albanian Club, officials will explore the possibility of finding a new location for the club.

Attorney John Keilty, who is representing the club, said the current location on Howley Street is ideal due to its proximity to where many of the members live, but that there were no plans to appeal the council’s decision. As a result, Keilty said he and club officials will discuss the possibility of leasing another location.

Councilors did not dismiss the idea of allowing the club to pursue a liquor license out of hand, instead expressing concern that the current location is not a fit for a social club with such a large membership serving alcohol. On Howley Street, the Albanian Club does not have a standalone building, instead sharing space with a number of different groups, including two churches.

“The council has opened its arms to this community,” Councilor-at-Large Jon Turco said during the council’s meeting on Sept. 14. “We will help find a different location, we’ll support an alcoholic-beverage license at a different location.”

Keilty appeared before the council last week, seeking removal of the condition on the club’s special permit that bars it from serving alcohol and disallows the consumption of alcohol on the premises. He repeatedly stressed to councilors that voting in favor of removing the condition would not equate to supporting the club being allowed to serve alcohol, instead allowing the council to essentially conduct an evidentiary hearing on the proposal.

If councilors had supported removing the condition, the club could have pursued a new special permit allowing alcohol and appealed to the licensing board for a liquor license.

The club’s special permit was suspended for three months earlier this year, and it was fined $200 after it was found to have been in violation of the permit by allowing the service and consumption of alcohol on the site. The permit was reinstated in June after a legal challenge by the club failed.

Keilty acknowledged the violation and said the club had revisited its leadership at the suggestion of councilors.

“We have received a substantial punishment for that violation (and) my clients have abided by that,” Keilty said.

Keilty was joined at the meeting by a large group of supporters of the club, who had signed a petition supporting the lifting of the condition. Endri Kume, a member of the club, spoke in favor of the proposal before the council.

“All we’re trying to do is, we’re trying to have a conversation with you all,” Kume said.

But, Ward 3 Councilor Stephanie Peach remained a staunch opponent of lifting the condition.

Peach, whose ward the club is based in, brought the special permit before the council in January 2022, after a meeting with club leaders in which they indicated they did not drink alcohol and would not do so at the club. While Peach said she wanted the Albanian community to have a place to gather, she said had officials been truthful about their desire to provide alcohol at the club in January during that meeting, she would have expressed her belief that the location was inappropriate.

“For a club this size to be operating the hours they have been approved to operate with alcohol sale and consumption is inappropriate,” Peach said, adding that she was aware of additional violations by the club in the wake of the special-permit suspension. “I really want this club to work.”

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