Alcohol farm

Down East town hopes allowing alcohol sales will attract more restaurants

A small Down East fishing community may, for the first time, allow residents to order frothy mugs of beer or other alcoholic beverages when they sit down at a local restaurant.

Jonesport is one of several semi-dry rural communities in Washington and Aroostook counties. For decades it was completely dry – meaning you couldn’t get a drink or buy a bottle – but voters approved the sale of alcohol in stores in 1976.

Now the city, one of the state’s largest lobster ports, plans to ask residents a series of referendum questions in November that, if all passed, would allow restaurants to sell beer, wine and spirits for customers to drink on site. , seven days on seven.

This is a subject that the city has already considered. City officials were waiting for residents to talk about it again, coach Billy Milliken said. About six weeks ago, a dentist who owns waterfront property in Jonesport and wants to open a restaurant presented a citizens’ petition to the city.

The petition did not follow the letter of the law to get a referendum question on the ballot, but sent the message to city leaders that there was an interest in putting liquor sales on the menu.

Milliken sees it as a way to inject more money into the small coastal community and spur economic growth in the town of about 1,300 people. Currently, there are only a handful of places to eat in Jonesport, and people often hang out in nearby communities.

“The city has a lot of needs,” Milliken said. “One thing is more restaurants. This would keep a lot of money in town.

And while there’s a chance the town will be a bit less dry in November, it’s unlikely there will ever be a Jonesport pub crawl. In 2015, the city passed zoning regulations that prohibit any establishment with more than one-third of its gross revenue from the sale of alcohol.

“We recognized that the townspeople were really concerned about the presence of bars,” Milliken said.

On a busy Thursday, a woman phoning Jonesport Pizza, one of the only places to eat in town, said the pizzeria was already selling alcohol for takeout. However, it cannot be drunk on the spot. But the owners would be willing to sell drinks to dining customers if the vote passes, she said before getting back to work.

If successful, Jonesport would follow the example of Corinth, which broke its decades of dry city status earlier this year.