Liquor License Loser Could Still Win

By Chris Wangler
September 29, 2023

Four new all-alcohol liquor licenses for five applicants? Someone’s gonna lose out, but there could be a consolation prize down the road for whoever fails to get one.

The five applicants are The Aegean, Hakata Ramen and Sushi, Little India, In a Pickle and Sonny’s, a new restaurant proposed for the former Il Capriccio location on Main.


The four additional all-alcohol liquor licenses were issued by the state on the basis of Waltham population increases in the 2020 census.

State law says liquor licenses “are issued to serve the common good and public need,” according to a communication from the Waltham License Commission. 


The criteria for awarding the new licenses include how many seats each establishment has and how many are on its staff. The more money a business earns, the more the city receives in meals taxes.


The commission said “the greatest consideration will be given to those applicants [who] will be enlarging their present business or intend on opening a new business within the City of Waltham.” Those interested must hold or apply for a common victualer license.

There’s some pressure on the commission about the decision after a controversy back in 2016 involving another free license. 

The applicants were Gustazo, a beloved small Cuban upstart on Main run by an ambitious Waltham couple; and Ruth’s Chris, an out-of-state corporate steakhouse chain.


Ruth’s Chris got the license because commissioners said it would create 90 jobs and contribute more revenue to the local economy—much more than Gustazo could. 

But Gustazo argued that the city should help a growing small business run by Waltham residents, not a well-heeled chain easily able to afford a license on the open market.

Three of Five Already Have Licenses

Last Wednesday, five applicants made pitches for the four all-alcohol licenses during a special meeting of the license commission:


The Aegean, 741 Moody Street (15 employees, 68 seats). Above: Christa Bazarian.


Hakata Ramen and Sushi, 895 Main Street (14 employees, 60 seats). Above: Sean Zheng.


Little India, 475 Moody (8 employees, 55 seats). Above: Bhushan Dhir.


In a Pickle, 265 Moody (35 employees, 99 seats). Above: Tim Burke


Sonny’s, proposed for 888 Main Street (40 proposed employees, 91 seats). Above: David Gordon.

Three of the applicants (The Aegean, In A Pickle and Little India) currently have beer and wine licenses. 


Each told the commission they could significantly boost earnings with an all-alcohol license. Tim Burke of In a Pickle explained that an all-alcohol license would allow him to open nights, expanding his existing breakfast and brunch business in a big way.

If these current license holders are awarded an all-alcohol licenses, they would have to surrender their beer and wine licenses to the commission.

The two other applicants do not hold liquor licenses: Hakata Ramen and Sushi, which opened in 2018, and a new place called Sonny’s proposed for the former Il Capriccio space by Gordon’s Liquors on Main.


David Gordon, grandson of Gordon’s Liquors legend Sonny Gordon, said he wants to serve fresh seafood and farm-to-table dishes in a building owned by the Gordon family.

Unlike the current license holders, who obtained licenses previously, the two non-license holders have not shelled out for an overpriced license.


So who will receive the new licenses? The decision will be announced at the Wednesday, October 25 meeting of the Waltham License Commission.

Silver Lining

For applicants who lose out, there’s a silver lining.

Licensing officials said whoever fails to get one of the all-alcohol licenses could apply at a later date for one of the surrendered beer and wine licenses.

File photos