It was in 2006 that Rockport opened the door to alcohol sales in restaurants, beating back widespread fears spread by some naysayers who suggested such a step would somehow be the first along some new Cape Ann road headed toward Sodom and Gomorrah.
That hasn't happened, of course. Since that time, there've been no signs of drunken-fueled trouble — only positive signs for the town's better restaurants that have since been able to offer fine wines and other drinks with their meals.
Tonight, Rockport's voters can take another positive step toward letting a key — and presently missing — component of the town's business community better compete with neighboring markets and provide a very viable service to consumers.
An article on the warrant for tonight's Annual Town Meeting asks voters if they want to allow town grocery stores the ability to sell beer and wine, alongside their meats, produce, milk, and other products. And Town Meeting voters should respond with a very emphatic "yes."
This isn't simply about serving or selling alcoholic beverages. It has everything to do with taking some significant competitive handcuffs off any local grocery market — just as lifting the town's previous alcohol ban did for its top restaurants.
In Rockport's case, allowing a grocery store to sell alcohol might — just might — help the town fill a significant void since the January 2011 shutdown of the former IGA market adjacent to the Whistlestop Mall.
The fact is, the town has been without any true food marketplace since that date. And while no one can really prove the lack of a beer and wine license is the chief reason property owner Jay Smith has not yet landed a new tenant, it is obviously a significant factor,
No grocer is likely to want to open a new outlet in the former IGA building without any access to beer and wine sales if customers can simply drive the short distance to Gloucester and answer all of their one-stop shopping needs there.
There was a time when many town residents might have looked with pride at their town's hard-line stand against alcohol sales, but those times have long, long since passed us all by. Now, these regulations — past and present — are seen as economic albatrosses, signs of a community behind the times, and signs that Rockport is decidedly not business-friendly.
That's an image a lot of town residents and officials, to their credit, are working very hard to change. And it's one that all town registered voters can have another hand in changing tonight.
If you're a Rockport voter, make the effort to get to the Rockport High School gymnasium for tonight's 6:30 p.m. Town Meeting. And cast a "yes" vote for allowing beer and wine sales at one or more local grocery stores that should hopefully soon arrive.
It's an important "yes" vote for Rockport's consumers — and for its competitive, economic future.