Cambridge General Store Owner Patti Dowse is looking forward to selling wine during the week and maybe letting patrons enjoy a beer with their pizza if a local referendum to expand Cambridge’s liquor laws is approved by residents Tuesday.

As the law stands now, wine can only be sold on Sunday and restaurants in town cannot sell alcohol for on-site consumption.

“We’re trying to get as many people to come and vote as we can,” said Dowse, who organized five petitions earlier this year asking residents to reconsider the town’s liquor laws.

The proposed changes will be considered in local referendum questions on Tuesday. Polls are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cambridge Town Office.

Like most towns in the state, Cambridge’s liquor laws date back to a statewide initiative following the end of Prohibition that allowed towns to set their own liquor laws. An ordinance dating to 1974 states that only beer may be sold during the week, not wine or hard liquor.

In 2013, the town voted to make the sale of both beer and wine legal on Sundays, but they didn’t update the during-the-week rules to include wine.

That could change on Tuesday when voters will be asked to consider five questions related to the sale of alcohol in the town. The first question asks whether residents want to approve the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption at places like bars and restaurants on days other than Sunday.

They will also be asked to consider permitting agency liquor stores to operate on days other than Sunday. There are currently no agency liquor stores in Cambridge, and the law does not allow for them. The general store, the only one in the town, sells wine and beer only. Dowse said she doesn’t have plans to sell liquor, but that after starting a petition to allow for wine sales during the week, she decided to propose other expansions of the town’s liquor laws as well.

The question originally came up after organizers of a music festival in Norridgewock discovered that town’s liquor laws also included exemptions about what types of alcohol could be sold and when.

In order to bring each issue to a referendum, Dowse needed to get at least 10 percent of the number of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election to sign a petition in support of the changes. The store’s top priority is to be able to sell wine and some other alcoholic beverages, like Twisted Tea, that fall under the same every-day-but-Sunday exemption, but she said they’ve also considered selling beer and wine for on-premises consumption at the store and restaurant.

“We wanted to find out what the town actually wants, and that way if it turns out that the town wants liquor, we might put that on the horizon at some point,” she said. “My guess is they don’t, but we won’t know until people vote.”

Selectman Bill Digby said he didn’t have a strong opinion either way whether the town chooses to make changes to the liquor laws and said he had not heard strong opinions from others either.

“It was something the townspeople wanted to put on the ballot,” he said. “They got the required amount of signatures to put on the ballot, and it’s up to the residents to either vote it in or out.”

A third referendum question (listed as question 2-A on the ballot) asks voters whether the town should allow the sale of malt liquor and wine for off-premises consumption on days other than Sunday. A yes vote on the question would allow the general store to sell both beer and wine during the week, while a no would mean the store would continue to sell wine only on Sundays.

The fourth question on the ballot asks voters whether to allow the sale of liquor for on-premises consumption on Sundays. A yes vote on that question would mean that alcohol can be sold and consumed in bars and restaurants on Sundays, while a no vote would make it illegal to sell alcohol for on-site consumption on Sundays.

The final question on the ballot, Question 4, asks voters to consider allowing agency liquor stores to operate on Sundays. A yes vote means that stores can sell hard liquor on Sundays.

“I don’t think we had anyone come in (to the store) who said, ‘No, I don’t want that,'” Dowse said. “It’s just a question of getting people to go and vote. I don’t think there’s a lot of sentiment against it, except maybe the liquor, and that’s something that we don’t really have that much intent to do.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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