Everett Liquor License for Hostel Draws Controversy

A political battle has heated up in Everett, where a state representative is doing battle with the superintendent of schools over a liquor license. The controversy stems from State Rep. Stat Smith application for a liquor license for his youth hostel, Backpackers, an inexpensive rooming house frequented by young people from around the globe. The Everett Licensing Board just approved the license, which Smith says would help his bottom line because of the down economy, and would help draw guests from Boston to Everett.

The primary opposition to his application came from from the Everett Public Schools. Superintendent Fred Foresteire told WBZ that he is concerned about young students walking to school encountering hostel guests who are drinking or drunk. The Whittier School is around the corner from the youth hostel.

Now, the Everett Independent reports that Tim Flaherty, candidate for state Senate in this fall’s elections, has come down strongly on the side of the city’s school children and area residents, criticizing the recent granting of the liquor license. “I believe that the people of Everett should be able to send their children to neighborhood schools and not have to worry about their safety walking to and from the buildings,” Flaherty told the paper.

At the hearing two weeks ago, Superintendent of Everett Public Schools Frederick F. Foresteire detailed his concerns about children’s safety, reminding Board members that an Everett High School student was killed by a drunk driver only a few hundred yards from the location of Smith’s “Backpackers Pub”. Foresteire was opposed to granting a liquor license to an establishment so close to three elementary schools, where many parents walk their children to and from these schools.

“The decision of Everett’s Licensing Board to allow a liquor license for a drinking establishment in such close proximity to the Whittier, Adams, and St. Anthony’s schools is not only threatening the safety of students attending these schools, it also sends the wrong message to the community” said Mr. Flaherty.

Flaherty also questioned why the Board approved the locations hours of operation (from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 a.m. Monday through Friday) which allows the drinking establishment to be open during school hours every day of the week. Dozens of area residents have protested the action of the Licensing Board. However, Flaherty is the only local political voice to have chimed in.

In my view, what is missing from this discussion is how exactly a license for inside the hostel will have any impact on the schools or the students who attend. The hostel-goers and students will likely have no interaction. Unless hostel-goers are parading around the streets drunk, which is highly unlikely, the students will never even know what goes on inside the hostel.

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