C’est Bon Buys Liquor License

With cases of whiskey and other spirits lining the floor behind its sales counter, C’est Bon Convenience began to make use yesterday of a liquor license it obtained last Monday.

Though area stores like 7-11 and Louie’s sell beer and wine, C’est Bon is now the only Harvard Square convenience store that can legally sell hard liquor.

Standing behind racks of candy bars at the cashier’s desk while selling lottery tickets, George Sarkis, the store’s owner, pledged he would sell “no cheap wine, no cheap beer, just really good stuff here.”

C’est Bon purchased the license from the owners of Sage’s Supermarket, formerly located at the corner of Brattle and Church Streets, which closed in June 2000.

Although Sarkis refused to say how much he paid Sage’s for the license, the Boston Globe reported last month that similar licenses have recently sold for over $400,000.

Because only a limited number of liquor licenses is distributed by the Cambridge License Commission to stores throughout Cambridge, acquiring the right to sell hard liquor can be both difficult and expensive for area stores.

Such licenses are usually sold between businesses rather than returned to city hall when one store closes.

By city law, only 50 restaurants in the Harvard Square area are allowed to own liquor licenses at one time.

License commission officials could not be reached yesterday to confirm the number of area convenience stores that can hold liquor licenses.

While C’est Bon succeeded in finding an available license, not all area establishments have been so lucky.

Penang, a new Malaysian restaurant located on JFK Street, has been attempting to procure a liquor licence since opening last fall.

According to Penang Manager Jimmy Toh, “city hall told us there are no more [licenses] for the area, so we are looking for sellers to buy from.”

Although he says he is hopeful that he will find a license,

Toh remains unsure about when he expects to begin selling alcohol. “As a restaurant we like people to be able to have a couple of beers with their meal,” Toh said.

“Now, some people will come in and walk out when [they hear] we don’t have liquor,” he said.

Toh said he expects business to increase if and when he obtains a license.