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October 27, 2012

Rockport grocery alcohol sales in residents' hands

ROCKPORT — The decision of whether to grant a liquor license to an incoming grocery store rests in the hands of Rockport residents now, after Gov. Deval Patrick signed off on state legislation approving a beer and wine license for a grocery store in town.

Rockporters now just have to vote on whether or not the town should allocate the license. Selectmen will decide if the town should hold an early vote to ratify the license. But, until a grocer proposes moving into town, a special election seems unlikely, according to Selectmen Chairwoman Erin Battistelli.

“We’re going to be prudent. We don’t want to spend the money if we don’t have to,” Battistelli said in a telephone interview Friday.

Battistelli said selectmen have yet to discuss the issue in depth, but are aware that a special election could be costly for the town. Instead, selectmen may opt to have residents vote on the ballot in May at the regular election.

Supporters of the legislation have long said the license for a full-service food store to sell malt beverages and wine would attract potential grocers to Rockport by giving the grocers one more product to sell. That was the intention of the legislation, said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who sponsored it, and of Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D- Gloucester, who petitioned the bill along with Tarr.

“The availability of a liquor license is a powerful tool to recruit a food store to Rockport, and now that tool is on the table,” Tarr said. “I am confident that it will be used effectively by town officials and the business community to address what has been increasingly identified as a need by residents.”

Ferrante, like many residents, said she hoped the grocery store would spur economic development as well as providing a convenient place for Rockporters to pick up groceries.

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