Harpswell to vote on retail liquor sales

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HARPSWELL — The question of whether to allow retail liquor licenses in Harpswell will go to voters in a June 13 referendum.

Voters will also decide on a $38 million budget for School Administrative District 75, the town’s portion of which totals $7.8 million, up 1.5 percent over this year. The increase represents a tax rate increase of $27 on a $425,000 Harpswell home.

Polls will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Elijah Kellogg Fellowship Hall on Route 123; the Cundy’s Harbor Community Building on Cundy’s Harbor Road, and at the Old Orr’s Island School House on Route 24.

Absentee ballots are available at the town clerk’s office, 263 Mountain Road, and can also be requested by phone or online. The deadline to request a ballot is three days prior to the election.

The campaign to allow retail liquor sales began as a petition that garnered 469 signatures this winter.

Teri Pontbriand of Bailey Island General Store launched the campaign with the notion that local retailers are losing business because they aren’t permitted to stock hard alcohol. Allowing liquor licenses will increase revenues for Harpswell’s small businesses, she said, primarily in the summer.

In an April interview, Pontbriand explained that while Bailey Island residents can pick up food and other staples at the store, which her son owns and manages, it’s an hour-long round trip to Brunswick to buy liquor.

Not only is the trip an inconvenience, but at that point, she argued, customers are more likely to do their other shopping while they’re off the island.

Per state statute, voters will face two separate questions: whether to permit liquor sales on Sundays, and whether to permit sales on all days except Sunday.

If it passes, Pontbriand noted that Harpswell businesses are then required to apply for licenses through the state, which can be a long process and may not be completed by the end of the 2017 tourist season.

As such, she said she expects few businesses will invest in the requisite $10,000 of back-stock to qualify for a license before next summer, when the seasonal population returns to support the investment.

Liquor, as well as beer and wine, is legal for purchase in restaurants, and retail beer and wine sales have been legal since 1983.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.