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City Considers Less Strict Alcohol Policy

By Anna M. Friedman, Crimson Staff Writer

Last night’s City Council meeting opened with a modern dance performance in celebration of the month of May staged in the center of the council’s meeting chamber, continued with a ceremony welcoming a visiting delegation from Mobile, Ala., and closed with Councillor Henrietta Davis reading her own poem about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose 200th birthday will be celebrated next year.

Amidst all of these symbolic activities, the council also discussed how non-politial Cantabrigians play around. Councillors unanimously passed two policy orders that may result in more lenient liquor licensing policies.

The first calls for a review of the License Commission’s cap policy, which limits the number of liquor licenses that can be issued, and for recommendations from City Manager Robert W. Healy as to how the policy might be changed.

Councillors criticized the current cap for being antiquated and for stifling small business growth. Councillor Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87 noted that Cambridge has “hopefully” moved beyond its Puritan roots and said a more flexible policy would “make it easier for restaurants to do business in the city.”

Councillor Marjorie C. Decker added that such a move might “improve the vibrancy of Harvard Square.”

After councillors discussed their favorite locales for late-night cocktails and conversation, Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72 said that citizens would appreciate changes to the current policy.

While anyone can grab a meal at 1 a.m. in other cities, Reeves said, “Here if you don’t eat by 10 p.m. you’re out of luck. Cambridge can do better than that!”

The second policy order directed Healy to review the city’s policies toward eateries seeking licenses to serve alcohol outside. While some councillors were uneasy with the prospect of more outdoor dining establishments with loud drinkers, others insisted outdoor cafes enhance the cultural atmosphere of the city.

Councillors did not just express concern over noisy late-night inebriation, asking Healy to “report on the status of requested changes” to the city’s zoning ordinances requiring noise affidavits for daytime construction jobs. These affidavits require building contractors to agree in writing not to violate noise regulations when they install loud equipment, such as air conditioners.

Several Cambridge residents appeared before the council to make public comments in favor of improving the current affidavit ordinances, asking why the changes had not yet been implemented. Megan Brooks said that Healy’s office “hasn’t taken any action” even though the current system “does not work.”

“If present trends continue there won’t be a quiet bedroom...in the whole town,” Brooks said, adding that “these trends are destructive to long term livability in Cambridge.”

Councillor Craig Kelley concurred, saying that the “current affidavit does not do enough to keep people from putting in loud mechanical equipment.”

But while these policy orders passed with little dissent, Kelley disagreed with his colleagues about a pilot program that would provide councillors with research assistants. Though he said he would appreciate the help, he insisted that the city’s money could be better spent.

“I can’t support this funding of aides when last week we had a whole host of people coming in asking for more money for the schools,” he said.

Kelley also expressed discomfort with the creation of such a program midway through the councillors’ terms.

Other councillors insisted the move would be an efficient use of money, as it would allow them to accomplish more for their constituents instead of being hindered by long searches for difficult-to-find information.

Decker expressed strong support for the pilot program, arguing that the program would bring equity to the council by providing all councillors with resources currently available only to the mayor and vice-mayor.

“I feel very good about knowing how much [more] I can do for constituents,” Decker said.

“Over a period of time [Kelley], too, will understand the importance of having people who can really help do substantive work,” she added.

The policy order was passed with Kelley recording the only “no” vote.

—Staff writer Anna M. Friedman can be reached at amfriedm@fas.harvard.edu.Other councillors insisted the move would be an efficient use of money, as it would allow them to accomplish more for their constituents instead of being hindered by long searches for difficult-to-find information.

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