A liquor license for the new Belli in Spanish Town? Not so fast

Spanish Town’s Belli, formerly Capitol Grocery, has faced pushback in the neighborhood over planned changes by its new owner, particularly a decision to pursue a liquor license.

Capitol Grocery, which opened in 1914, had not held a liquor license, something Belli owner Kristen Guarisco wants to change—the store did have a license to sell beer, however.

Belli, which opened in June, has been pursuing a liquor license to sell craft beer and wine in the neighborhood market. According to Alcoholic Beverage Control, any beverage with over 6% alcohol by volume is considered liquor, so simply pursuing a beer license would preclude the store from selling anything other than light beer, Guarisco says.

Some Spanish Town residents took to a community message board to express their concerns that Guarisco or any future owner would eventually change their mind on this policy and the neighborhood institution would essentially become a liquor store.

“The neighborhood is having to trust me that I won’t sell liquor if granted authority,” says Guarisco, who has lived in Spanish Town since 2020. “People are mistrusting of the store, but I’m a whole new business. We have a different vibe.”

Another concern of residents is that Guarisco wants to turn Belli into a club in the evenings, something she clarified by saying that she originally wanted to create an after-hours, members-only space but decided against that, hoping to “open beyond the Spanish Town community.”

Instead, she is trying to turn Belli into a “gathering space in the afternoon,” where residents from Spanish Town and beyond can come together.

This story originally appeared in an Aug. 9 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.