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Wellesley selectmen want beer and wine sale approval

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  September 4, 2013 03:50 PM

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Wellesley's run as a quasi "dry town" may soon run dry.

Wellesley's Board of Selectmen voted Tuesday to ask Town Meeting members this winter if they think local grocery stores and specialty shops should sell beer and wine.

The selectmen voted to sponsor an article at the next Town Meeting, tentatively slated for Dec. 9, that asks Town Meeting members to vote on whether the town should send a home rule petition to the state Legislature asking for permission to sell beer and wine at grocery and specialty stores.

"We’ve gotten input from a number of folks, and the vast majority has been supportive of this," said Hans Larsen, Wellesley's executive director.

If Town Meeting votes "yay" and the Legislature grants the town permission, residents would then vote on the measure in a town-wide ballot question. If that passed, then the Board of Selectmen would then begin determining the number of licenses, how they are allocated, and other regulations, Larsen said.

"All registered voters can weigh in directly on the issue," he said.

Larsen said town officials feel fairly confident the measure could succeed. Various store owners have approached the town asking to sell beer and wine to keep their stores competitive, and many local residents are not opposed to the idea, he said.

"What is appropriate for the town today might be different than what was appropriate 50 years ago," he said. "Times have changed and we’re hoping that our property owners and merchants can remain competitive as there is increased competition in other communities."

However, Larsen said although selectmen support the beer and wine sale measure, residents should not expect to see full-on liquor stores any time soon.

"We’re taking a smaller step to just sell beer and wine in limited places," he said. "I think the perception is that package stores is a step too far. It's also not a step that we feel is necessary because no one has been arguing in favor of that."

Wellesley has always been "dry" from a retail standpoint in recent town memory, Larsen said.

However, the town has granted liquor licenses to some local restaurants. About 15 Wellesley eateries have a license to serve some type of alcohol, whether it is just beer and wine or any liquor, Larsen said.

The town has also granted four licenses to "clubs," like the Wellesley Country Club, and two to local college campus establishments - one to Roger's Pub at Babson College, and another to a bistro at Wellesley College, Larsen said.

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