PENOBSCOT – Residents in the small Hancock County community of Penobscot have voted to make a change and allow the sales of hard alcohol at stores, which has been banned for decades.
Sometime after Prohibition ended in 1933, residents banned the sale of hard alcohol but allowed beer and wine to be sold. That changed last week at the annual town meeting.
Residents approved two town warrants on March 6 allowing for hard liquor sales at stores in town.
The owners of Northern Bay Market, currently the only one store in town, petitioned community leaders for the change, which required the town-wide vote.
“People have been excited. They don’t have to go to Castine, Blue Hill or Orland to get their hard alcohol,” said Jamie MacNair, owner of Northern Bay Market with her husband.
When Prohibition was lifted, each community in Maine made decisions about if alcohol would be sold in town or consumed at restaurant and bars.
The only store in Penobscot has an aisle dedicated to wine and a couple coolers filled with beer but has been barred from selling spirits because of a decision made by residents decades ago.
“I don’t see why they shouldn’t,” one regular customer said. “People who are going to buy liquor are just going to go to the next town over five miles away. Why not.”
Another local customer and businessman said he also agreed.
“People can stay home, they don’t have to travel and they don’t have to spend their money elsewhere,” he said.
The store owners have applied for a liquor-selling license and are working with the state’s Bureau of Alcohol Beverages.
“It’s a misconception that it’s going to bring more hard alcohol to town,” MacNair said. “People are just going to keep their money in town locally.”
The local rules still prohibit on-site consumption of hard alcohol in town at other establishments, such as restaurants.