Sharon considers sale of hard liquor at stores

The Boston Globe reports that the town of Sharon may soon allow stores to sell hard liquor for the first time, if Town Meeting approves the measure.

Under existing policy, restaurants can be licensed to serve all types of alcoholic beverages, but stores are limited to beer and wine.

The article before Town Meeting calls for Sharon to submit a home-rule petition to the Legislature to allow alcohol sales in three areas of town.

Town officials who favor the change say they hope to boost business and convenience; similar sentiments have loosened alcohol restrictions elsewhere in recent years, such as in nearby Westwood, where the town decided in 2008 to allow a proposed Wegmans store to sell beer and wine.

Westwood was one of a shrinking number of “dry” towns in Massachusetts until 2005, when the town began allowing restaurants there to serve alcohol. But it did not allow stores to sell beer and wine until the Wegmans decision.

Benjamin Puritz, the town administrator in Sharon, told the Globe that liquor stores in neighboring communities draw customers out of town.

“I think from an equity point on view . . . it’s disadvantageous for Sharon not to be able to offer the same kinds of alcohol options of each of the contiguous communities,” he said.

The vote comes at a time when the state is gradually increasing the number of off-premises licenses a store may hold, thus allowing chains to sell alcohol at more locations. Until this year, one company could hold only three such licenses; the number is now five and will rise to seven in 2016 and then nine in 2020.

The Town Meeting article calls for Sharon to submit the home-rule petition for liquor sales in Shaw’s Plaza, the Route 1 area, and the proposed Sharon Commons development, all of them near highways.

Food markets that sell beer and wine elsewhere in town have raised objections, saying liquor stores that offer one-stop shopping will leave them behind.

“It will certainly draw business away from me,” said Jonathan Hall, owner of the Sharon Market, located in the center of town.