Chamber poll shows strong interest in liquor revisions

The Wilton Chamber of Commerce reports that a recent poll of its member restaurants shows a strong interest in quickly updating closing hours to coincide with the town’s revised alcohol rules.

The revision to the rules was passed by a wide margin in the Annual Town Meeting votes on May 2 and May 6. The vote was 1,668 to 340. This will allow alcohol sales Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., and New Year’s Eve until 3 a.m. It essentially scraps the local guidelines for closing hours at restaurants that serve alcohol and allows the restaurants to follow the state’s more liberal guidelines, as do surrounding towns.

The Economic Development Commission, which pushed the Board of Selectmen to put the matter to a town meeting vote, hopes that with the change, local restaurants will be able to compete better with those in surrounding towns.

The Chamber poll showed many restaurants are in favor of the opportunity to extend their hours, said Debra Hanson, executive director of the Chamber.

“I did a quick poll of my member restaurants and they all seem to be in favor of the opportunity to close later,” Hanson said. “The change doesn’t carry requirements, but they could stay open later and have later hours if they elect to do so. There have been situations where they had to close and turn customers away and so they lost revenue.”

The feeling is that they do not like telling customers they must leave, Hanson said.

“So right away they would want to extend their hours,” Hanson said.

“It will be very positive,” she said of the result of the poll, taken earlier in the spring.

Vivian Lee-Shiue, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, said it will be up to each individual restaurant that serves liquor to adjust its hours. Restaurants will have to refile with the town for a new permit, or file for an amendment to their existing permit.

She didn’t expect the same rush the Chamber foresees.

“Some may choose to wait until their permit is up for renewal,” she said.