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It’s a dry town no longer



Last modified: Monday, November 10, 2014
Sharon was one of only three towns in New Hampshire where beer and wine could not legally be sold or purchased.

You couldn’t order your favorite wine from a vineyard in Napa Valley to your home. Nor could you receive the beer-of-the-month if you belonged to a club.

That is, until Wednesday.

In the election Tuesday, voters in Sharon voted “yes” to allow the sale of beer and wine in their town.

Each of the four questions voters were asked about the sale of beer and wine passed by at least 60 percent.

These questions mirror N.H. liquor laws that allow a town change their status from “dry” to being able to serve alcohol. Now, the only holdouts in the state are Ellsworth and Millsfield.

However, Chet Bowles, Sharon’s town administrator, said Sharon’s adoption of these laws won’t impact the town much. Besides residents now being able to order beer and wine, Bowles doesn’t anticipate anywhere in Sharon will sell liquor.

There are no restaurants, taverns, or bed-and-breakfasts in Sharon, Bowles said on Wednesday, with Three Maples Bed and Breakfast closed. Sharon also lacks a commercial and retail zoning district.

Bowles created a web page before the election where he explained each of the questions on which voters were voting. The page was linked to the town of Sharon’s website.

On this web page, Bowles wrote that Sharon’s zoning regulations do not allow liquor to be sold at taverns, restaurants or similar establishments. For anyone hoping to create such an establishment, they would have to submit an application to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The application would be reviewed at a public hearing, which Bowles wrote is an opportunity for residents to voice their opinions.

“In other words,” Bowles wrote, “a YES vote on this question does not automatically allow for the operation of a tavern or restaurant.”

In another question, voters were asked if they approved of state liquor store being sponsored in Sharon. This question passed 122, ‘yes,’ to 67, ‘no.’

On the web page, Bowles wrote, “We all know that will likely never happen given our exceptionally small population, our lack of a commercial/retail district, and the fact that there are already large state stores in Peterborough, Jaffrey and Rindge.”

The most impactors outcome of this vote, Bowles indicated, are residents now being able to order beer and wine from vendors, like from online websites, or vineyards and breweries.

No one exactly knows why Sharon originally become a dry town, Bowles wrote. It might have started during the Prohibition era. Bowles said Sharon being dry wasn’t much of a problem before online shopping became popular.

Residents couldn’t order liquor online. Some retailers accidentally mailed alcohol to Sharon homes, maybe because Sharon shares a zip code with Peterborough, Bowles said.

Bowles said the town sought to change Sharon’s status after Knowles heard about the personal experiences of nine or ten residents. The town began this process by sending around a petition to registered voters. If 5 percent of voters signed, it would be sent to the Secretary of State’s office. 70 of the 300 residents in Sharon signed it.

The petition was sent to the Secretary of State’s office. It was placed on last Tuesday’s general election ballot.

Bowles said he was surprised that a number of people said they signed the petition to bring the question to a town vote, even though they wanted Sharon to stay a dry town. Bowles said he had a number of people opposed to this law’s passing say they liked the fact Sharon is quirky and a dry town.