CLINTON — Jay Gould hopes the business he co-owns, Tradewinds Market Plus, can obtain a state liquor license.

First, though, he needs voters to make that application possible.

“I’d like to think we’d be a great candidate,” Gould said.

Residents will vote Nov. 8 on whether to allow stores in town to apply for off-premises liquor licenses from the state. The town warrant includes two articles asking voters to authorize the state to issue liquor licenses; one would authorize agency liquor stores to sell every day, and the other would authorize them to sell every day but Sunday.

While Clinton is not a completely “dry” town, Town Manager Pamela Violette said it hasn’t allowed the sale of spirits, or hard liquors such as vodka, since it was founded in 1795.

Now the town doesn’t allow agency liquor stores or businesses to sell wine, beer or liquor for on-premise consumption at places like restaurants or bars, but stores can sell beer or wine to go, according to Larry Sanborn, the division manager of liquor licensing and enforcement at the Maine State Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. The closest agency liquor store is in Benton, about 10 minutes away by car, according to Violette.

About two or three years ago, a resident gathered signatures to petition to open a sports bar on Main Street, Town Clerk Melody Fitzpatrick said. A proposal to allow businesses to get on-premises liquor licenses went on the warrant for a vote but failed at the polls, she said.

This time is different, Fitzpatrick said, because the proposal is for off-premises licenses and residents also will have two options: to allow sales every day, or every day but Sunday.

One of the stores that helped to gather signatures for the petition and hopes to get a license in the future is Tradewinds Market Plus on Hinckley Road, owned by Gould and Chuck Lawrence.

Based on the two owners’ combined decades of experience in retail and selling liquor, Gould is hopeful about obtaining a liquor license, should one of the articles pass on Nov. 8.

Gould would like to make it easier for residents, who now have to travel to Benton to find the nearest agency liquor store. So far, he said, he “feels supported” by customers about the proposal to allow businesses to sell spirits.

Sanborn said stores that already sell beer and wine typically want to become agency liquor stores because they then can stock “complete, across-the-board offerings” for customers.

“You become a bit of a destination,” he said.

However, there is a limitation to how many stores in an area can be licensed agency liquor stores, Sanborn said. For towns with populations of 2,000 to 5,000 — which is where Clinton lands — the number is three.

Sanborn found three stores that could apply for the license: Tradewinds, Galusha’s on Main Street, and Clinton Variety and Pizza on Main Street.

Technically, all three businesses could get a license, he said, but first the ballot article has to pass. Then the businesses would apply and pay a refundable fee to the licensing commission. The commissioner then inspects the premises of each business to verify its information before holding a public hearing, where the businesses have to convince the commissioner they’re the best choice for a license. The commissioner makes a decision based on a variety of factors, Sanborn said, including the business’s location, sales, inventory, size and volume of customers.

Each business would have to prove it could carry at least $10,000 worth of inventory at all times, he said.

If the article is passed, the businesses will have two time periods throughout 2017 to go through this process. One opens in January, when applications will be accepted, and ends in March after hearings, so that approved businesses would have time to stock up for the summer tourist season. The other period starts in July and ends in September so businesses can prepare in the fall for the upcoming holiday months.

This ensures businesses don’t get licensed during a weaker part of the season, when they may have trouble keeping up inventory, Sanborn said.

Clinton police Chief Rusty Bell said he doesn’t think a change in the local law will affect the town’s crime rates or public safety.

“It’s so prevalent in the community already,” Bell said of liquor use in town. “I don’t think it’s going to have an impact on it.”

Bell said that alcohol is a problem in Clinton with certain people. He remembered one domestic violence incident two years ago when the man involved had walked to Benton and back in January to buy liquor.

“We are already dealing with hard liquor and always will,” Bell said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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