The last dry town
Bridgewater weighs unique distinction versus advantages of alcohol sales
Residents of Bridgewater take great pride in their town being a unique and special place.
The quaint, old New England village is scenic and pristine.
There is a generally close-knit feeling of community among Bridgewaterites, and townspeople have battled fiercely for decades to keep open their outstanding local elementary school in the face of repeated attempts to consolidate Region 12 elementary students in a school in Washington, two towns away.
There is great pride, too, at least in some quarters, in Bridgewater being the last dry town in the state -- the only town that does not allow the sale of alcohol within its borders.
Pride in being the only dry town, however, might be giving way to recognition that the ban on the sale of alcohol thwarts economic and job growth in town.
Two local businessmen have suggested it would be advantageous if alcohol could be sold in potential cafes or restaurants in properties they own -- Peter May in the historic Bridgewater Village Store in the center of town and William Holland Sr. in the former Webster Bank building at the junction of routes 67 and 133.
A town meeting will be held next month at which the possibility of changing a town ordinance to allow the sale of alcohol will be discussed.
While it's pretty cool for Bridgewater to be on the map as the only dry town in Connecticut, we believe it's a good idea for residents to at least consider the advantages that would emanate from allowing the sale of alcohol.
For starters, it might ensure that the Village Store -- an integral part of the fabric of life in Bridgewater for decades -- has a fiscally healthier future. May, a multi-millionaire, reports he has lost $1.5 million on the store in the past 25 years, and he believes a cafe with a beer and wine permit in the building would help him minimize his losses.
A restaurant in the vacant former bank building, and perhaps other dining establishments in town, could be a real plus for residents, who now need to leave Bridgewater to enjoy a fine-dining experience.
Should they want to take matters a step farther, residents could benefit, too, from having a liquor store in town, since right now they have to drive to a neighboring town to pick up their beer, wine or hard liquor.
It would be a significant boost to Bridgewater's local economy if a good chunk of the food and drink dollars spent by townspeople in other communities were to stay right in town.
Likewise, allowing the sale of alcohol in town would mean new and/or more successful businesses would be able to offer more job opportunities in a community that does not have a plentiful job market.
The decision as to whether to remain a dry town or to allow the sale of alcohol within Bridgewater's borders rests in the hands of townspeople, where it belongs.
It is likely there will be some good old-fashioned debating and some healthy differences of opinion expressed at the town meeting. And the outcome of the meeting isn't set in stone.
But it is healthy for Bridgewaterites to get together and discuss the issue.
And regardless of the outcome, residents will still be proud of their town, and Bridgewater will still remain a special and unique community.