Liquor store owner gets town's OK to move into bigger space at The Rink

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LEE — A liquor store owner is hoping a change of scenery will also mean a boost in profits.

David Ryel, proprietor of Berkshire Liquors on Canal Street, wants to relocate his nine-year-old business to The Rink along the much-busier Housatonic Street.

"I'm kind of hidden where I am now," he told the Lee Select Board this week. "People don't see my store until they go by."

Ryel has a purchase and sale agreement with Country Curtains to buy its retail space, a one-time roller skating rink, next to the Lee Athletic Field. Country Curtains announced this month that it was going out of business and would liquidate all its assets.

The Select Board unanimously approved an application to transfer his liquor license to a new location, at 130 Housatonic St. The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission has the final say on the move. The Lee Planning Board must also sign off on the project, according to town officials.

Once all approvals are in place, Ryel expects to close on the building by the new year, with renovations to follow, for a possible opening early next spring.

The potential move raised red flags with some neighbors and town officials concerned about a liquor store next to the athletic field. The town's oldest recreational park has experienced a resurgence during the past decade, with the installation of new playground equipment, a pavilion, a skate park and refurbished tennis courts.

"Just seems this goes against the natural order of things with a liquor store and kids [near each other,]" said Scott Graham.

The Select Board noted that local zoning doesn't prohibit such an establishment next to a playground or park.

Selectwoman Patricia Carlino asked Ryel if he plans additional security measures and safeguards, given the nature of his business. He said it's in the works.

Ryel's business plan calls for using about two-thirds of the 9,300-square-foot building — nearly quadrupling the 1,600 square feet of retail space he has on Canal Street.

"I'm looking to increase my inventory by 200 percent," he told The Eagle after the Select Board vote. "The more volume means I can offer a variety of pricing."

With the liquor store located in the building, he envisions an eatery on either side to complement his business, such as an ice cream or pizza parlor.

Berkshire Liquors first opened in late 2008, leasing the former Dupras' Liquor Mart from Tim and Janice LePrevost, owners of LePrevost Plumbing, Heating & Cooling next door. The Lee couple bought the 30-year-old business and land parcel as a package deal that included a self-storage facility, Lee Storage.

The LePrevosts, in turn, sold the retail aspect of the property to Ryel.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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