WINDSOR — Proposals to allow restaurants and other licensed establishments to serve alcohol could help bring a farm-to-table restaurant and farmers market to town and allow Windsor Fair attendees to have a beer on the fairgrounds, residents at a public hearing on the proposals were told by advocates for proposed rule changes Saturday.

They would also allow something that is already taking place in local stores, the sale of beer and wine on Sundays, to continue.

Three proposals to ease restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages in businesses in town were discussed at a public hearing Saturday. Each of the proposals go to residents in secret ballot votes at the polls June 11.

Town rules currently don’t allow restaurants or other businesses in Windsor to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on their premises. Two proposals discussed Saturday would allow restaurants or other licensed establishments, including vendors at the annual Windsor Fair, to sell liquor to be consumed by customers on-site. One of the proposals would allow it to be sold every day of the week other than Sundays, while the other also would allow liquor sales on Sundays.

The ban on on-premises alcohol has also prevented the Windsor Fair from allowing a vendor to provide a tent where beer and wine could be served, which Bill McFarland, vice president of the fair, said all eight of Maine’s other fairs that offer betting on horse races offer their fairgoers.

Tom Foster, longtime president of the Windsor Fair, said over the last several years fair officials have been approached by micro-breweries and other vendors, some of whom use Maine-grown grains and other agricultural items in making their beverages, to be able to display and sell their beverages at the fair. They’ve had to turn them away. He said other fairs that allow alcohol consumption, in areas only accessible to those 21 years and older, have done so without problems or misconduct by fairgoers.

“They’d like to be able to come to the fair and display their wares, which they’ve been unable to do because of the rules of Windsor,” Foster said of vendors. “From our standpoint, it’s another thing for people to see and do at the Windsor Fair.”

The proposed changes in local alcohol rules were brought to the town by citizen petitions, each of which, according to Town Manager Theresa Haskell, had more than the required 166 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Resident James Robey and Somerville resident Antoinette Turner said they circulated the petition for allowing on-premises alcohol consumption at licensed sites, in large part because they think it will help them create a farmers market on a parcel of land on Ridge Road in Windsor.

Robey said he and Turner have spoken with a restauranteur interested in opening a farm-to-table restaurant in Windsor, which they said could partner with a farmers market they’d like to open on the same site. They said the restaurateur said having a successful eatery would be an uphill battle if it can’t serve alcoholic beverages.

“We don’t want to end up with a (bar) full of rabble,” Robey said of their goal in getting the rules changed. “The idea is to have a place, farm-to-table, where we can gather with the community.”

He said a restaurant serving drinks could be a gathering place for area residents who want to go have a meal and a drink while supporting a local business, and local farmers.

No restaurants in town — which include a diner and take-out-style dining — serve liquor.

The other proposal would allow something that, apparently at least since the 1970s, has already been taking place in violation of local ordinance, the sale of beer and wine in Windsor stores on Sundays.

Haskell said stores in Windsor have been given licenses from the state to sell malt liquor, beer and wine, including on Sundays, for years now, despite an apparent vote in the 1970s banning the practice.

She said a state official contacted the town and said they needed to look at the issue of whether stores could sell beer and wine on Sundays. Haskell said they did, and it appears residents voted down a 1974 proposal that would have authorized the sale of beer and wine on Sundays.

The petition for the proposal was circulated by residents with ties to Windsor mainstay Hussey’s General Store.

Haskell said research indicates in 1962 residents voted, 163 to 123, to allow beer and wine to be sold by stores in town, a vote she said didn’t appear to specify whether such sales were allowed or not on Sundays. Then in 1974, she said residents, by a slim four-vote margin, voted against a proposal to allow beer and wine sales on Sundays. But she said apparently stores continued to do so, and were given state licenses to do so as well.

“So I’m not sure why, from that point forward, they were allowed to sell on Sundays,” Haskell said. “It’s been happening with the stores here in town. If this is voted down, no sale of malt liquor, beer or wine will be allowed in town on Sundays.”

Windsor native Lisa Wardwell, who owns China Dine-ah in China and Lisa’s Restaurant and Lisa’s White Flour Catering in Augusta, said she’s had to turn down numerous catering gigs in Windsor because customers wanted to be able to have alcohol at wedding receptions and other events. The town’s rules prevented her from using her portable bar there as part of her licensed catering business. She said her business has to follow strict state laws while serving alcohol, and she’s never had any trouble at an off-premises event with alcohol.

She also agreed that, to survive in Maine, a restaurant needs to be able to offer customers the option of alcoholic drinks.

“I think it would do wonders for Windsor,” Wardwell said of the proposed change. “A restaurant, let me tell you, will not survive without serving beer and wine in Maine.”

No one at the public hearing Saturday, which was attended by about 20 people, spoke against any of the proposals.

Turner said she and Robey spoke to about 200 residents about the proposal while circulating petitions, and only a handful of them expressed concerns about it.

All three proposals go to voters on a secret ballot June 11, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Windsor Town Hall.

Town Meeting is scheduled for the following day, at 6:30 p.m. June 12, also at Town Hall.


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