RANDOLPH — A routine request for a liquor license transfer for an established restaurant has uncovered a hiccup that can be fixed only by a referendum vote in this very small town.

When Runxiang Feng bought Sun Sun, a Chinese restaurant on Water Street at the beginning of May, the state Bureau of Alcohol Beverages and Lottery Operations denied his request for a liquor license transfer after Randolph town officials had signed off on it.

The reason? No record exists of Randolph residents ever voting to endorse alcohol being served at a restaurant or bar, effectively rendering it a dry town.

So while the restaurant, under its prior owners and names dating back to at least 2002, received liquor license renewals annually, that’s not going to happen again until the town votes to allow the on-premises sale of alcohol.

“To be honest, we’re investigating that right now. We don’t know where the confusion might have been or why they were allowed their license back in those times, but we are working on it,” Kyle Hadyniak, director of communications for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services said Tuesday. That department includes the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

“We never voted to be a dry town,” Randolph Town Clerk Lynn Mealey said.

To secure a liquor license, Feng and his staff are working to collect enough names on a petition by Tuesday to put two related questions to voters at a special election later this year.

The first is: Shall the municipality authorize the state to issue licenses for the sale of liquor to be consumed on days other than Sunday? The second one is: Shall the municipality authorize the state to issue licenses for the sale of liquor to be consumed on Sunday?

In all, about 130 signatures of registered Randolph voters are needed, Honchi Fung said. Fung is the niece of Feng and helps him with translating.

Fung said several petitions are now circulating, and while she didn’t immediately know how many signatures have been collected, she hopes that more people will sign.

Mealey said officials were aware of the problem a year ago, when someone at the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages contacted the town office to say no copy of Randolph’s local option vote could be found there. Any vote made would have been recorded with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, but Mealey said no evidence of a vote could be found in either the town’s files or at the Secretary of State’s Office.

But when the bureau issued the liquor license anyway, Mealey said, town officials assumed the record of the vote had been found somewhere.

Hadyniak said because  a license that had been approved by the city and issued in error by the state was given to the restaurant, the bureau allowed the then-owner to retain his license. But when Sun Sun was sold, and the new ownership created a break in the licensing, the bureau denied the license. It won’t issue a new one until a vote takes place to allow liquor licenses for serving alcohol at Randolph bars and restaurants to be issued.

Signs about a petition for permission to sell alcohol are seen Tuesday at Sun Sun Fine Chinese Restaurant in Randolph. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Mealey said Randolph has only one establishment requiring an on-premises liquor license and that’s Sun Sun.

While Goggin’s IGA sells beer, wine and spirits, it’s covered under a different section of the law because it’s not selling alcoholic drinks to be consumed at the grocery store.

This is not the first instance in which Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages records and municipal practices have not been in sync.

In 2017, the Snow Pond Center for the Arts and the Lakeside Lodge halted planning catered parties when they learned that weren’t going to be able to get catering permits.

Even though Prohibition ended in 1933, Sidney residents had taken no action since then to change their town’s dry status and allow the liquor licenses to be issued. That prompted a petition drive to get the matter before voters, who decided 71-24 at Sidney’s March Town Meeting that year to allow the sale of liquor for onsite consumption.

Two months later, two restaurants in Richmond learned they had been running afoul of the state’s Blue laws by serving alcohol on Sundays.  Both the Old Goat and Kimberly’s worked to collect enough signatures to get the issue on the June ballot and correct an earlier attempt to allow Sunday alcohol sales. In 2005, town residents had voted to allow the practice at a special town meeting, but they did it with a show of hands. State law requires the vote to be conducted by secret ballot.

Even though Randolph’s annual Town Meeting is scheduled to take place later this month, the matter cannot be put on the warrant because of the secret ballot requirement, Mealey said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: