The word that Gov. Deval Patrick signed off last week on a bill allowing Rockport to grant a beer and wine sales license to an undetermined, incoming grocery store is certainly good news for town residents.
All the measure needs now is to get final ratification from town voters — and that should be a foregone conclusion, considering that residents gave their approval to pursuing the needed legislation in a town meeting vote this past April.
But the next Town Meeting, of course, doesn’t fall until next April. And Selectmen’s Chairwoman Erin Battistelli says that, until a grocer proposes moving into town, a special election seems unlikely.
That poses a logical question: Why?
Battistelli says it’s a matter of the town being “prudent,” and there’s something to that. If Whistlestop Mall site owner Jay Smith, whose building that formerly held the IGA market is really at the center of all this, doesn’t have a potential market tenant looking to move in before next April’s Town Meeting, you can argue that there’s no reason for the town to spend money on a special election.
Yet there is a real chicken-and-egg dilemma here when it comes to considering which comes first. And it’s frankly hard to imagine that a potential new grocer who needs the beer and wine sales to make his or her project work would even consider the old IGA site — or even at some other Rockport location — if the permit to sell alcohol isn’t already confirmed and on the books.
To that end, town officials can best address the town’s and residents’ lack of a local grocery store by doing all they can to put the opening of a new store on the fast track. And the best way to do that is to schedule a special confirmation vote on the beer and wine permit proposal.
That’s one cost that would truly be a good investment — for the town and its residents alike.