The Board of Selectmen will gather opinions from the Police Department and the Planning and Zoning Department before moving forward to possibly extend the hours of liquor sales for restaurants.
“I would ask that you not have local restrictions, and not keep us at a disadvantage with neighboring towns,” said Vivian Lee-Shiue, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, which is pushing the concept to help Wilton’s businesses.
The town has a reputation for being somewhat difficult for businesses to operate in, and maintaining restrictions on liquor hours would only increase that reputation, Lee-Shiue warned the selectmen.
Removing the town restriction on liquor hours would put establishments under guidelines set by the state, which Lee-Shiue said means restaurants could close at 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. (Package stores may remain open only until 8 p.m. on weekdays, 5 p.m. on Sundays.)
The timing of the proposal is now to get it onto the agenda for a public hearing.
Closing hours are controlled on two fronts in town. One is the town liquor ordinances, which allow for package stores, restaurants and country clubs that serve alcohol. Any change here regarding closing times would involve a change in the ordinances town residents voted on.
The other means of controlling restaurant hours is through the Planning and Zoning Commission. Individual restaurants would have to try to get their permissions amended, Town Planner Bob Nerney has said.
“From a zoning perspective, restaurants involve takeout food and are regulated by a special permit, so it requires a commission review,” he said, adding that in the past the commission imposed conditions to allow special permits to fit into the character of certain areas. One frequent condition was the limitation of hours, to 11 p.m., for instance.
“I think the rationale behind it is if restaurants are in areas where there may be noise concerns,” Nerney said. “They look at it from a land-use impact.”
While there is the broader issue of the town liquor sales ordinances, from a P&Z perspective “the businesses would have to come back before the commission to ask that their restriction be amended or removed, and the commission would look at that based on the normal regulatory criteria,” Nerney said.