Special to The Swellesley Report from Robert Dwyer of The Wellesley Wine Press:
Similar to our fair Wellesley, neighboring Needham has long been a “dry” town. Well, dry insofar as there are no bars or package stores allowed, although alcohol can be served at restaurants. But that could change – as I learned from Boston Restaurant Talk. Needham is considering allowing alcohol to be sold at retail outlets for the first time since prohibition.
It got me thinking about whether Wellesley too might consider loosening up its alcohol restrictions. Can you imagine liquor stores in Wellesley? I can.
When stated that way – LIQUOR STORES – it’s hard to see the idea of junky old guard Massachusetts package stores flying in Wellesley. But if it’s done the right way I can imagine retail wine sales in Wellesley. Here’s how…
Wellesley has a history of “gerrymandering” laws to suit its interests – specifically in the area of alcohol regulation. Have a look at a this brief history of Wellesley’s dry status. There are all kinds of quirky laws on the books that were undoubtedly enacted to discourage or allow some specific scenario at the time each was enacted. This precedent makes it possible to imagine the town allowing specific types of alcohol sales and not others. Fine wine and craft beer? Yes. Nips, lotto, and cigarettes? No way.
The issue of whether Wellesley should have a different tax rate for commercial property than residential has very recently been on the table. If I’m a commercial property owner having a hard time filling a vacant storefront, and a boutique wine retailer with locations elsewhere in the Boston area is interested in leasing the space, I’ve got to feel limited by the town’s alcohol sales restrictions.
To successfully finagle retail wine sales in Wellesley, it needs to be positioned as a positive element in the virtuous cycle of excellent public schools, a beautiful town close to Boston and high quality homes/neighborhoods.
A high quality retail wine boutique/gourmet grocery could be an asset to the town in a similar manner as John Dewar Meats, Wasik’s Cheese Shop and Blue Ginger. And who wouldn’t love the convenience of picking up some vino at the Wellesley Whole Foods along with the rest of your groceries?
Weston allowed the sale of wine a couple years ago and they seem to have survived quite nicely. It’s time for Wellesley to allow the sale of wine at retail establishments. Let’s do it the right way and make it another reason why Wellesley is a great place to live.