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Needham votes to allow retail sale of alcohol

Posted by Evan Allen  November 7, 2012 10:29 AM

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Needham voters overwhelmingly backed a ballot question on Tuesday to allow the retail sale of alcohol in the historically dry town.

The Town Clerk’s office was still doing hand counts on Wednesday morning, but unofficial results said that 12,181 Needham voters supported the measure, while only 4,636 voted against it.

The ballot question’s passage will allow liquor stores to sell alcohol for off-site consumption in Needham. The town will 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.

Needham voters also backed President Obama over Mitt Romney, 10,207 to 6,513, and supported Elizabeth Warren over Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate race, according to preliminary results. Brown received 8,070 votes to Warren's 8,824.

Board of Selectmen Chair Jerry Wasserman said that the alcohol sales ballot question is technically in effect now, but that the Board is not yet accepting applications. Board members are planning a public hearing on Nov. 14th to discuss possible regulations to guide the town's implementation of the measure. Wasserman said the board will likely discuss regulations at that meeting and vote at their next meeting.

Then, he said, they will begin accepting applications.

He was not surprised, he said, that the question passed.

"The feeling that we had was that the town did want this, and it passed overwhelmingly," he said.

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.

Needham’s Town Meeting voted in May to put the question on a town-wide ballot. The question had to run on a separate ballot from the state ballot because the Secretary of State’s office did not grant permission to include it on the state ballot. The Board of Selectmen voted to put it on a second ballot for this election because voter turnout was expected to be high and they wanted as many voters as possible to weigh in on the measure, which has been hotly debated at a number of public forums.

The Town Clerk’s office did not yet have information on voter turnout in the election, but turnout was high across the country.

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

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