HARVARD -- Selectmen held a public hearing Tuesday night to consider two applications from the new and improved Shaker Hills Golf Club, Inc., for an all-alcohol, served on premises liquor license and a common victualer's license, respectively.
Both were granted, with conditions echoing those the selectmen attached to the previous license issued to the former golf club owner. After some discussion, however, the board agreed to a couple of proposed amendments, one of which extends time boundaries so the course can open an hour earlier and the function area can stay open past sunset, when the rest of the course closes. Another allows outdoor lighting, within bylaw parameters.
It was the first stop for the applicant, Shaker Hills owner Frederick Curtis, his attorney, Philip Feinzeig, of Worcester, and club manager Timothy Valas. The trio would also visit Ayer selectmen for another hearing on separate applications later that evening.
Since the golf course property straddles the town line, liquor licenses are needed from both boards to cover various serving locations, including traveling food and beverage carts, a "pavilion" that was once a snack shack and a function tent, both of the latter can seat 100 people, a bylaw condition Town Meeting attached to liquor licensing provisions when it agreed to forgo "dry town" status.
The clubhouse and about 5 acres of the 169-acre spread is in Ayer.
Tracing the club's 20-year history and new ownership, Feinzeig said Curtis bought the place last May at a foreclosure sale and has been "energetically" renovating it ever since. A glossy brochure he brought along touted its perks and recent makeover, with before and after pictures. One unique and "dramatic" fix-up touch he pointed out is that four of the golf course's 18 holes begin and end in front of the clubhouse.
The pavilion, which will serve food and alcoholic beverages, is located on the green, which is entirely in Harvard, as is the function area and tent.
The applicant knows the rules and aims to follow them, whether set by the town or the state alcoholic beverage commission, Feinzeig said. For example, only employees 18 years or older will serve alcoholic beverages from the roving carts on the green, and those who pour and serve liquor in the pavilion, function area and tent or clubhouse will be tip certified, he said.
When it came to amending conditions so the function area to stay open until 11 p.m., Selectman Marie Sobalvarro said there could be a problem in terms of ABBC approval for setting a less restrictive time limit for one area versus another covered by the same liquor license.
That would only raise an issue if the situation were "adversarial," the lawyer opined.
In the end, the conclusion both parties came to was that the application would most likely pass muster with the state board if the applicant included a separate, signed agreement to that effect, which he readily agreed to do.
Before closing the hearing the mull and make a decision, Chairman Lucy Wallace opened the floor to public comment. Surprisingly enough, two abutters who spoke were all for it, including an avowed teetotaler who had earlier argued against granting a liquor license to the former owner when he wanted to start serving liquor on the course. For him, it was mostly a safety issue, though, with concerns about tipsy golfers driving through the neighborhood.
This time, the owner and the manager have reached out and allayed their fears. Now, both of the abutters who spoke said they felt Curtis and Valas would live up to their promises.
"Of course, I've been wrong before," Don Crossman said, but he's enthusiastically on board for now, even offering to re-do a roadside lead-in that's been problematic for traffic in the past, if the DPW will deliver him a load of wood chips to finish the job.
Dean Sampson echoed Crossman's positive remarks. "I look forward to being a neighbor," he said.