A decades-old blue law has blocked the town of Bridgewater's effort to lift an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol. That means Bridgewater will, for the time being, be the last remaining dry town in Connecticut.
Bridgewater's prohibition on the sale of alcohol goes all the way back to 1935, just two years after prohibition was lifted. No one is sure why the town decided to go dry, but the story around town is that Bridgewater went a little wild after prohibition was lifted. Impromptu taverns sprouted up in resident's barns and basements, and farm work took a backseat to late night carousing.
Now, after 79 years of prohibition, Bridgewater is considering allowing alcohol in restaurants. By state law, the town is too small to have a package store. A town referendum scheduled for Tuesday would have decided whether the owners of two proposed restaurants would get the go ahead to obtain a liquor license. Currently there are no restaurants in Bridgewater.
But late last week, a town resident dug up an old Connecticut statute that in effect scrapped Tuesday's referendum. Curtis Read, First Selectman of Bridgewater, said, "The statute, 30-10, specifies that it can only happen in a regular election of the town, preceded by having a petition filed by ten percent of the voters, and on record in the town clerk's office for at least 60 days, before it can be put on a ballot."
That means a vote to lift prohibition may not happen until November 2015, the next time Bridgewater holds elections for town offices. That is, unless the town holds a special election before next year, or the general assembly votes to change or nullify the law. "To wait two years at this point would be very detrimental to the whole initiative," said Read, who supports the lift on prohibition.
The issue of lifting prohibition is a divisive one in this town of only 1,800 residents. Many welcome the change, and the chance to go to a restaurant in town, rather than driving miles away to a neighboring town for a bite to eat.
Others are concerned that allowing alcohol could change the character of the town, bringing a "party" atmosphere to downtown. "This is not going to be a lively, downtown metropolis, happening place," said Greg Bollard, who represents Peter May, the owner of The Village Store, and one of the people hoping to open a restaurant in town. "This is where you are going to buy a burger and a beer. Beyond that, I don't know what I can say for reassurance."