When Ephraim voters approved a referendum to allow sale of beer and wine beginning Fourth of July weekend, residents and business owners had an idea of the economic and public reaction, but no one knew for sure. Two months in, things are as quiet as they were before the vote.
“From my end it really has not been an incident. It’s seamless,” said Village Administrator Brent Bristol. “It’s been painless, which is good.”
Dick Luther, owner at Joe Jo’s Pizza and Gelato hasn’t noticed a drastic change after adding a few wines and craft beers to his coolers.
“We haven’t had to turn anybody away because we didn’t have it, but it hasn’t been a real big thing for us,” said Luther. “We had a lot of canned sodas before, we had Gatorade before, we eliminated that.”
While the transition was seamless, Luther found it curious that his sale of non-alcoholic beer hasn’t changed at all.
“We still have demand for the non-alcoholic beer,” said Luther. “[Sales] haven’t gone up but they haven’t disappeared either, which I thought they would.”
Proponents of the beer and wine referendum claimed economic development as the primary benefit to the village. Being able to sell beer and wine not only burgeons current business’ bottom lines, but it can attract other development that would otherwise pass over a dry Ephraim.
“I was curious if it would,” said Bristol on the question of business development proliferation. He hasn’t heard anything in his office, but sees the potential for future interest. “Maybe people are waiting to see how it plays out, talk to some of the existing [businesses] to see what it actually is doing to their bottom line.”
During the drafting of the ordinance that allowed sale of beer and wine, the Ephraim Village Board put a six-month moratorium on the passage of any additional alcohol licenses. September marks six months since that motion, but Bristol said the board has not considered further alcohol licensing.
“The board has taken a hiatus from that as well,” said Bristol. “They’re probably just giving it the season to see how it plays out, see if, prompted or unprompted, they’ll revisit this winter to consider any additional change or wait to see if the public comes to them and then requests it.”
There is interest in allowing temporary wine licenses, giving organizations the opportunity to provide and sell wine at their events instead of just beer, but Bristol said that there is some interpretation of state law that must take place before being brought to the board. Allowing temporary wine licenses may require the passage of intoxicating liquor licenses as well.
“That’s still open for a little bit of interpretation so we’ll have to reach out to the department of revenue again and get their two cents,” said Bristol.
But for now, Ephraim will stick to beer and wine as village officials, residents and tourists see how the addition of alcohol plays out beyond these first two months.