, Gloucester, MA

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April 2, 2014

Paper-cup booze stirs Rockport flap

ROCKPORT — Alcohol prohibition here ended in 2005, when referendum voters decided to allow restaurants to serve beer, wine and liquor with meals.

But the decision came with multiple provisions that restricted how alcohol could be sold — including in what types of glasses or mugs.

Now, however, the current selectmen have decided to adjust the town’s alcohol bylaws to allow restaurants to serve alcohol in disposable cups.

The vote, at a March 11 meeting and following a public hearing came after Scott Lucas, one of two co-owners of Top Dog on Bearskin Neck, told the board that the business is requesting the change since it doesn’t have room for a dishwasher.

But the fly in the mustard for some Rockport residents is that the second co-owner of Top Dog is Eliza Lucas, Scott Lucas’ wife, who happens to currently sit on the Board of Selectmen. That changes the playing field, at least for some Rockport residents, even though Eliza Lucas did recuse herself from any related discussions and the vote.

Letters to the editor accusing the selectmen of aiding a peer or “helping one of their own” have sprung up in the Times this week. But Selectman Paul Murphy said that any claims of favoritism or wrongdoing are simply false and that in a small town like Rockport, these dilemmas are bound to occur.

Joanne Wile, a former selectwoman who wrote one of the letters printed last week, laughed Tuesday when asked what she thought of the selectmen’s move.

“Well, even though you recuse yourself, there’s an underlying influence,” Wile said in a phone interview. “You can’t say that there isn’t.”

Other Rockport letter writers seemed to feel the same.

“What was really happening, I believe, was pure political maneuvering, with board members taking care of a fellow colleague,” Rob Berry of Long Beach wrote in his letter that appeared Tuesday.

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