Voters in Corinth will decide later this month whether to allow alcohol sales in their community of about 2,900 residents, which has been a dry town for decades.
Residents who spoke with the Bangor Daily News on Thursday said they supported allowing retailers and restaurants to sell and serve alcoholic beverages. But two business owners weren’t sure they would immediately apply for liquor licenses.
Corinth residents will vote June 14 whether to allow licensed businesses in town to sell liquor, malt liquor and wine for consumption both on and off the premises, according to a sample ballot from the town. The policy change is broken into four separate referendum questions that would allow voters to limit the kinds of alcohol sold in town and the days of the week sales could happen.
If voters approve all four questions, alcoholic beverages could be sold at grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants all seven days of the week if they obtain a liquor license.
Corinth residents voted in the late 1960s and ‘70s not to allow alcohol sales in town, for consumption on and off premises, and those rules remain in effect, according to the Maine State Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.
Residents voted as recently as 2013 not to allow the state to issue licenses for retailers to sell beer and wine on days other than Sunday, according to state data.
In 2004, however, Corinth voted to allow licensed agency liquor stores in town, though none are operating there.
Corinth Town Manager Stephen Fields said he recommended the select board add the questions to the ballot after the Maine Legislature passed a law last year that gives municipalities the option to reaffirm their liquor laws before July 2022 through a referendum vote.
Mandee Labelle, a Corinth resident and owner of Hometown Pizza & Grill, said she’s in favor of changing the local laws because it could lead to people staying off the roads when they’ve been drinking.
“Because this is a dry town and Charleston is a dry town, you have people who may have been drinking driving to surrounding towns to get more alcohol, then driving home,” Labelle said.
Labelle said she regularly has customers who hope to buy a beer with their pizza and are surprised when they learn they can’t. If Corinth votes to allow businesses to sell alcoholic beverages, however, Labelle said she wouldn’t be interested in obtaining a liquor license because “I don’t know if I want to be involved.”
“I worked in convenience stores when I was younger and when people would come in that had been drinking and you can’t serve it, they’d get aggressive,” she said. “It’s something I don’t want to deal with.”
Alan Whitney, owner of Whitney’s Family Supermarket in Corinth, said he doesn’t have an opinion on whether the town should allow businesses to sell alcohol.
Should voters approve the changes, Whitney said he wouldn’t immediately apply for a liquor license for his store, which is Corinth’s only large grocery store and hasn’t sold alcohol in its 18-year history.
“We’re going to see how it plays out first before we make any decisions,” Whitney said. “I’m just as interested as anyone to see how the vote turns out.”
Sharon Dow of Corinth said she doesn’t drink alcohol but would support allowing Corinth businesses to sell alcoholic beverages. “People just go elsewhere, and I think they’re losing a lot of money not selling liquor,” she said.
Samantha Lunn of Charleston said she enjoys shopping at Whitney’s in Corinth but said making a separate trip to Bradford when she wants to buy a bottle of wine is “inconvenient.”
“I never understood why Corinth is a dry town when other towns around it aren’t,” Lunn said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. People don’t want to travel 15 or 20 minutes just to get a case of beer or a bottle of wine.”
Friends Tim Votta and John Lawrence of Rhode Island were on their way to their camp in Corinth, where they’ve vacationed for the past 30 years, on Thursday. Because Corinth stores don’t sell alcohol, the pair said they brought alcohol with them but stopped at Whitney’s to buy an empty cooler for their drinks.
Dozens of other municipalities across the state, most of them smaller, rural communities, remain “dry,” meaning they prohibit the sale of any alcoholic beverages.
In Penobscot County alone, 21 other municipalities place some sort of restriction on the sale of alcoholic beverages within town limits, according to the state. Of those, four communities — Charleston, Edinburg, Maxfield and Seboeis Plantation — are entirely dry.