The Salem Licensing Board unanimously rejected a proposal to transfer the Lafayette Market's liquor license to the Hess Station on New Derby Street Monday night.
The Board's Special Investigator Det. Peter Baglioni of the Salem Police Department said there have been 89 calls for service to Hess in the past year for issues ranging from drunk individuals to customer disputes, larceny, domestic issues and harassment.
Phil Lombardo, the attorney representing Hess, told the Licensing Board the gas station was required to construct the walkway and benches behind the store during the permitting process per Chapter 91.
Lombardo said Hess would be willing to install a gate, utilize surveillance cameras and install signage to keep tabs on activity behind the building.
Those customers who would purchase alcohol would mostly likely be purchasing it as an "add-on" to other purchases like cigarettes or gas, Lombardo said.
In addition to calls to the Hess itself, Baglioni said there were 43 calls to the Derby/Lafayette street area, which is in close proximity to Hess, and 73 more calls for police to the area around Murphy's, which is directly across the street from the gas station, within the past year.
Further, Baglioni said, there are eight establishments selling liquor within a half-mile radius of the store.
Chairman of the Board, former Salem Police Chief Robert St. Pierre said that "the area [near Hess] really is like ground zero for us." St. Pierre said the area is one of the "biggest and most difficult" for officers to cover.
Residents also expressed their concerns, including Shirley Walker of the Derby Lofts.
"If the city keeps adding liquor licenses, it's creating more crime," Walker said.
Walker said she believes the Salem Police are "seriously understaffed," and crime in the city is getting worse.
"This has got to stop," she added.
Ward 7 Councilor Emeritus Joseph O'Keefe, who is also the City Council liaison to the Board, said he looked at the liquor license proposal from his background as a fire protection engineer.
O'Keefe said he doesn't believe the combination of liquor and gas is a safe one.
"It's dangerous," he said, adding that gasoline "blows up, it's explosive."
Licensing Board member Rick Lee said "that Hess Gas station is like a beehive nest," referencing criminal issues in the area.
"I'm emphatically opposed to it," he said.
For more discussion on the Hess Gas Station be sure to check out last week's Voice in Salem column from Contributor William Legault.