ROCKPORT — Five years after Rockport voted to allow alcohol sales at restaurants, Rockporters are now poised to decide at Monday's Town Meeting whether local grocery stores should be able to sell beer and wine.
The proposal is aimed at drumming up interest in companies looking to move into the former IGA space at the Whistlestop Mall, a space that has been open for more than a year.
"It's been 15 months without a grocery store, and that's just too long for a community of 7,000 people," said Selectman Frances Fleming.
In February, selectmen voted to begin the process of allowing beer and wine sales from a grocery store.
First, the issue will come before Town Meeting, set for Monday night at 6:30 in the Rockport High School gymnasium. Then it needs to be approved by the state Legislature before finally facing a referendum approval by Rockport voters.
Selectman Paul Murphy raised the issue, saying that, as of now, a person cannot buy an onion in Rockport, and that giving potential buyers of the IGA space the ability to sell wine and beer could speed the process of having a new grocery store move into the site.
"One of the problems is that some of the companies interested in coming to Rockport are worried they can't survive without liquor sales," Murphy said.
The article on the warrant strictly limits the license to grocery stores, explicitly banning convenience stores from getting a permit. The permit would be limited to sales of beer and wine, no hard alcohol, and the article only seeks one license for the entire town.
Where the change to allow alcohol sales in restaurants stirred up a great deal of controversy, this plan has caused little consternation.
"There were some real concerns when alcohol was introduced to restaurants, there were all these dire predictions that just didn't happen," said Fleming, who said she thought the smooth implementation of restaurant licenses changed minds.
Though some people who opposed the idea spoke against allowing alcohol in grocery stores at the February selectman's meeting, none were particularly vehement — and most expressed concerns about ensuring that only one license should be issued and that it go to a full-service grocery store.
"It's time that Rockport allows this," said Murphy. "I don't think it's a huge, radical change."
Stephanie Bergman can contacted at 978-283-7000 x3451 or email@example.com
Rockport Town Meeting
When: Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Rockport High School gymnasium, Jerden's Lane.