A small semi-dry Down East town can now lift their glasses in celebration after voting Tuesday to allow restaurants to serve alcohol for the first time.
Residents in Jonesport easily passed a referendum during this week’s election allowing alcohol to be sold and served in local establishments from Monday through Saturday. The vote, spurred by a local dentist turned restaurateur, was 431 to 160.
“I did not expect it to be that much of a landslide,” said Wayne Yee, the man who started a petition for the vote and owns a dental practice in the small fishing community.
A second ballot question that would have allowed restaurants to serve on Sundays was disregarded because the question’s language did not follow state protocols, sowing confusion and concerns over being sued.
Jonesport Selectman William Milliken said he expected a vote on the likely more contentious Sunday question in June.
Like several towns in Washington and Aroostook counties, Jonesport has been dry or semi-dry for decades. The community, one of the largest lobster ports in Maine, didn’t allow stores to sell alcohol until 1976 and has never allowed it to be sold in restaurants.
Town regulations still also ban any establishment that makes more than a third of its gross revenue from alcohol sales, effectively drowning out any chance of bars in Jonesport.
Milliken hoped Tuesday’s vote would help businesses flourish Down East.
“It’s going to give some of the existing people a chance to increase their revenues and employ more people,” he said.
Yee’s restaurant doesn’t have an opening date yet and the dentist said he is currently working through plumbing and wastewater requirements with the state. But when it does open, he hoped the eatery along the water could serve as a community gathering place.
“Maybe this will be a chance to bring people together,” he said.