Nouria faces hurdles in quest for tobacco license

Jun 3, 2021

The Nouria gas station and convenience store set to open at 2416 Cranberry Highway — at the same site as the old Maxi Gas, roughly across from Walmart — hopes to sell tobacco products. 

There’s just one problem: The business doesn’t have the necessary license to sell tobacco, and the process to obtain one isn’t exactly straightforward.

Attorney Jilian Morton attended the June 2 Wareham Board of Health meeting and spoke on behalf of Nouria, asking the board to consider approving a tobacco license transfer — a process that is not allowed under current bylaws.

“I understand there is a provision within the bylaw regarding non-transferability,” Morton said, adding that she understood the town’s intent behind its cap on tobacco licenses. She also noted Nouria has been on the waiting list for a license since 2019 and is currently next in line when one becomes available.

Because no licenses are readily available, however, Morton explained that Nouria was hoping the Board of Health might waive the non-transferability requirement and approve a process that would allow for the transfer of a tobacco license from a current holder to Nouria — without Noria being required to buy an entire business outright. 

“Obviously they put a lot of sweat into that project and a lot of improvements and infrastructure for the town,” Morton explained. She noted that the project, which revitalized the Maxi Gas site that had fallen into a state of disrepair, was “the type of development we want to encourage” in Wareham. 

“I know there’s been a big push lately from the town to take these properties and revamp them,” Morton said.

Currently, Wareham has issued 38 licenses to sell tobacco products, according to Wareham Health Department health inspector Patrick MacDonald. The town’s goal is to get down to just 37 tobacco licenses, he said.

Chairman Amy Wiegandt had doubts about the idea of a transfer.

“[Nouria] can open up and still work at full capacity without a tobacco license?” she asked.

Morton acknowledged that yes, it would be possible to open without being allowed to sell tobacco products but said that wouldn’t be ideal.  

“I would argue, I don’t know of another convenience store in town that doesn’t have one,” she said. “For us at this point, we’re trying to find a way to be able to get this [license] for them. Obviously, when a patron goes to a store like this, [tobacco] is something that they would look to possibly get.”

MacDonald said that the Noria development was “definitely an upgrade” to the old Maxi Gas site. He said that a tobacco license transfer could likely be handled similar to a liquor license transfer.

“[Nouria] would be purchasing the license from the current holder, and there’s a transfer process wherein the board would accept the purchase of the license and get the agreement from the seller that they understand they’re no longer allowed to sell the product upon transfer,” MacDonald explained. “And then the board would just vote to accept the transfer from location to location.”

Judith Whiteside, the Board of Selectmen liaison to the Board of Health, pointed out that to mimic a liquor license transfer more closely, Nouria would also be required to notify its abutters and have a public hearing for abutters to voice their concerns or support for the license transfer.

Wiegandt and MacDonald both said that this type of tobacco license transfer — where Nouria would simply purchase the license from another holder rather than buying an entire business and remaining in the same location — hadn’t been done before. Board members still had details to work out about the proposed transfer process, even as the discussion moved on to other agenda items.

Morton said those behind the Nouria project would like to know about the possibility of a license transfer and what the process might require “as soon as we can.”