Worried about the risks of being sued, a small town in the Down East is planning not to count the votes for a botched referendum that could have allowed restaurants to sell and serve alcohol on Sundays.
The selectors of Jonesport decided on Wednesday that they would disregard the results of the ballot issue in the Nov. 8 election after learning of the issue the wording does not follow the language required by state law.
The ballot question was supposed to ask residents if they would like to allow the sale of alcohol to be consumed on the premises of a licensed establishment on Sundays. But instead, the question asked if they wanted to allow sales every day, including Sundays.
Although an official with the state Bureau of Liquor and Lottery Operations said the error seemed minor and probably wouldn’t be a problem, elected officials decided it wasn’t worth a trial.
“Our intention is to ignore it on the grounds that it was not written legally,” said Jonesport manager William Milliken. “Our lawyer says he will be vulnerable to a procedural challenge.”
The fishing community will still have the ability to approve alcohol sales Monday through Saturday, as this ballot question followed state-required wording.
The error occurred some time before elected officials signed the ballot mandate, according to Milliken. The wording was correct on the documents in several previous procedural steps.
Jonesport only began licensing businesses to sell alcohol in 1976, but never allowed beer, wine and spirits to be served in restaurants and bars. The the city decided earlier this year to ask the two ballot questions to voters after Wayne Yee, a local dentist and business owner, garnered support for the measures in a citizens’ petition.
Yee, who hopes to serve alcohol at a local restaurant he is opening, agreed with the selectors’ decision not to answer Sunday’s question.
“I think what they’re doing is the best way to fix it,” he said.
If voters approve Monday-Saturday liquor sales, Milliken said the city would have a chance to vote on Sunday in June.
Milliken didn’t expect there to be much opposition to the Monday-Saturday vote, but thought there was a chance that some people in town wouldn’t favor Sunday liquor sales. . To that end, he feared that if the poorly worded question passed, it would open the city up to a trial.
Legal challenges have become a headache for the city in recent years and authorities are trying to avoid them if possible.
Jonesport has had several battles with the owners of the city’s private island, who fought their tax bills and seaweed harvesting on their shores. Milliken also thought a call might soon come from opponents of terrestrial fish farming which is currently before the city’s planning council.