WESTON (CBS) – The law in Massachusetts could not be clearer: If you want to sell alcohol, you have to have a liquor license.
But the I-Team has discovered one establishment that doesn’t play by that rule, and it happens to be one of the state’s most exclusive country clubs.
Every week, as golfers tee off at the Weston Golf Club, case after case of beer, wine and liquor is delivered to the private club to be enjoyed by its 500-plus members, who include some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in Massachusetts.
WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports
“From every kind of vodka, to bourbons, to liqueurs, to champagnes,” said a former employee of the club, who spoke to the I-Team on the condition that we protect her identity.
The ex-employee said alcohol is served just about everywhere at the Weston Golf Club — at three bars in the clubhouse, by the pool, and even in to-go cups. And they’re not giving it away.
“Beer, I would say about six dollars, seven dollars for a beer. Mixed drinks would probably go from like eight to I’d even say 12 dollars,” she said.
The problem? The club isn’t licensed to sell it.
“This is a prima facie case of a situation where an institution, or individuals who are charged with running the institution, thought that the law did not apply to them,” said Tom Nolan, a former Boston Police lieutenant who now works for the Department of Homeland Security.
Asked what would happen if a club in Boston was found selling alcohol without a license, Nolan said: “That place would be shut down in 10 minutes. They’d be fined, they’d be sanctioned.”
The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission confirmed that the Weston Golf Club is not legally licensed to sell alcohol, but a spokesman said the ABCC only has jurisdiction over establishments that actually have liquor licenses.
If someone is selling alcohol without a license, the ABCC said, that’s a matter for local law enforcement.
Local law enforcement in Weston is the Weston Police and according to the ABCC, it’s up to them to deal with the fact that the Weston Golf Club is selling alcohol without a liquor license.
But from what our investigation found, some Weston police officers aren’t in a very good position to enforce that law.
And this is why. Week after week, the I-Team’s cameras captured Weston police officers showing up at the back entrance to the club around lunch time. The former employee said those police officers would head straight to the kitchen.
“They would come right in time for lunch and then they’d be on their way once they got their food, no questions asked” she said.
Asked if any money was exchanged, she said, “Nope. Have a nice day.”
Said Nolan: “It certainly creates the appearance of impropriety when we see the police accepting a gratuity from an institution that is violating the alcohol laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Weston’s police chief refused to comment on his officers getting free lunches. But in March, Weston’s board of selectmen acknowledged in its meeting minutes that a liquor license for the Weston Golf Club is needed “…to legalize an ongoing practice.”
To Nolan, the meaning of the selectman’s statement is clear. “It’s an explicit acknowledgement that an illegal activity is occurring in this context, in this setting,” he said.
The Weston Golf Club’s attorney claimed members own the liquor and the club just stores it.
He denied the club is actually selling alcohol and said this arrangement has been going on for decades in country clubs all over Massachusetts.
But the I-Team checked 148 other clubs in the state and found all but one has a liquor license.
In May, the town of Weston filed a bill in the state legislature to grant a liquor license to the Weston Golf Club. But that bill is still pending and will ultimately need approval from a town-wide vote.
Weston’s town manager initially agreed to talk with the I-Team on-camera and then cancelled the interview.
In full disclosure, our own Jack Williams has been a member of the Weston Golf Club for the last two decades.