No rush for later liquor closings

Despite a Wilton Chamber of Commerce report last May that showed its member restaurants had a strong interest in quickly updating closing hours to coincide with the town’s revised alcohol rules, none have stepped forward to update their local permits.

It has been more than three months. The summer season has come and gone.

“No, nobody has submitted at this point,” said Bob Nerney, the town’s planning director.

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  allows 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 encouraged the Board of Selectmen to put the matter to a town meeting vote, hoped that with the change, local restaurants would be able to compete better with those in surrounding towns.

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

However, Hanson could not explain why no one has moved to take advantage of the change in rules. She said she has not been in contact with the restaurants since her last survey.

Commission chair Vivien Lee-Shiue did not return several emails seeking comment. She had said in May she believed some restaurant owners would wait until their permit is up for renewal.

The restaurant owners have a different perspective.

“There’s no people here at night, I don’t know what to do,” said Caterina Pertisin, co-owner of the Cactus Rose Tequila Bar and Restaurant, in Wilton Center. “The people leave early,” she said.

That was also the sentiment at Marly’s, also in Wilton Center.

“We definitely have the option to stay open later now but there is still the thing of, are there people in here to sell to?” the restaurant’s assistant manager, Christian Marino, said.

At The Little Pub, on Danbury Road in south Wilton, the manager said the owners have not decided what to do about the possibility of closing later.

“We’re still looking at it,” he said.

The open question is whether the Planning and Zoning Commission would enforce its laws, if some restaurants were to try to stay open later without filing the formal applications. Nerney said he could not answer for how individual members of the commission would respond, but he recommended that restaurant owners take the appropriate steps and do it the right and legal way.