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Needham to vote on retail sale of alcohol in special election Nov. 6

Posted by Evan Allen  September 19, 2012 03:49 PM

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When Needham residents head to the polls on Nov. 6, they will have more than just the races for president, US Senate and Congress to weigh.

On Tuesday night, the Needham Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to put a ballot question that would allow the retail sale of alcohol in the historically dry town on a special election ballot, according to chair of the Board of Selectmen Jerry Wasserman.

The town had originally hoped that the question would make it onto the state ballot to spare the town the cost of the special election, he said, but in a letter included in the Board of Selectmen’s Tuesday agenda and dated Sept. 12, the Secretary of State’s office notified them that the question would not be allowed onto the state ballot itself. So a second ballot will be provided to voters coming to the polls for the national and state races.

Needham is not entirely dry. Restaurants with 100 or more seats are allowed liquor licenses, and smaller restaurants are allowed to sell beer and wine. The Sheraton runs the only bar in town.

The proposed changes to the liquor law, which in May Town Meeting members voted to put on a town-wide ballot, would allow liquor stores to sell alcohol for off-site consumption in Needham. The town would be allowed six liquor licenses, with an extra two in 2018. No more than six at a time would permit the sale of all alcohol.

The legislature approved the question for a town-wide ballot on Aug. 3, according to Town Clerk Theodora Eaton, and on Aug. 9, the town requested permission to put the question on the state ballot this November. That request was denied.

Wasserman and selectman Moe Handel said that the selectmen decided against waiting until next year to put the question on the ballot because this year’s presidential election will draw so many voters to the polls.

“This is a federal election and a state election, and all of us felt the question was important enough so that the maximum people should weigh in on it,” Handel said. “We felt that the turnout at this election would give us a definitive answer either way about what the wishes of the town are with respect to that issue.”

Eaton and Wasserman said they was not yet sure what the cost of the special election would be, though they said the town would certainly have to hire additional workers.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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