Orland residents will have to revote on a measure to allow alcohol sales on Sundays after the state found that a nearly 30-year-old vote was invalid. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / AP

Nearly 30 years ago, Orland voters approved an ordinance that allowed drinking at bars in town on Sundays. But they recently found out from the state that the vote was invalid.

The Orland discovery is one of several by the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations recently. The bureau is missing proof of some decisions on liquor sales and also found that language at the municipal level hasn’t kept up with changing state regulations.That means a “large number” of towns like Orland have to hold new local option votes, according to documents sent to the town.

They have until July 2022 to rectify the matter.

In 1992, 125 residents voted at town meeting to allow establishments to sell liquor to be drunk on-premise on Sundays. Municipalities must choose to allow several different alcohol options, including sales on Sundays, at liquor stores, and at restaurants, bars and other establishments.  The town approved the question by a voice vote, which runs afoul of the state regulations that require a secret ballot, according to the bureau.

“We determined that the vote at the March 31, 1992, town meeting is invalid as the vote was not conducted by a secret ballot vote,” Timothy Poulin, the bureau’s deputy director, wrote in a September email to the town. “Therefore, the Town must re-vote this matter.”

The bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is unclear how many towns would be in a similar position to Orland, though residents in Wales re-voted several alcohol questions last month because proof of the original vote from 1968 couldn’t be found, the Sun Journal reported. The town’s records were believed to be lost in a fire.

To avoid hurting local businesses that have complied with liquor regulations but could still lose their licenses due to inadequate record keeping at the local level, state lawmakers recently passed legislation that gave municipalities time to either submit evidence of votes for local liquor questions or revote the issue before July 2022.

“If the town does not take action to resolve this matter by June 30, 2022, this office will be required to issue updated licenses to these establishments prohibiting them from serving alcohol on Sundays,” Poulin wrote to Orland.

Orland Town Clerk Tracy Patterson said the town is planning to revote the matter with a referendum ballot at the June 2022 town meeting.

According to the state, Orland is home to two places where a thirsty soul can enjoy an alcoholic beverage on-premise on Sunday: the Alamoosook Lakeside Inn and the recently opened Sandy’s Saloon.

Debbie Fonseca, the owner of the inn, said she has a full bar and regularly hosts events and parties. She was unaware of the town’s issue with the state.