With a nod of approval from incoming police Chief John Lynch, the Board of Selectmen on March 6 accepted and approved as is a request from the Economic Development Commission to extend hours restaurants may serve alcoholic beverages.
The selectmen imposed no local restrictions on the liquor sales, and effectively promised the development commission that only state regulations on alcohol will be followed.
The next step is a public hearing, set for March 27 at Middlebrook School, immediately following the hearing on the budget with the Board of Finance.
After that, the issue goes to a town meeting.
Vivian Lee-Shiue, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, could not immediately be reached for comment, but she got what she asked for from the selectmen.
“I would ask that you not have local restrictions, and not keep us at a disadvantage with neighboring towns,” Lee-Shiue said at a selectmen’s meeting in February.
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 would put establishments under guidelines set by the state, which Lee-Shiue said means restaurants would 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.)
Closing hours are controlled on two fronts in town. One is the town liquor ordinances, and 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.