Friday February 8, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard is not quite ready to toast a new state law that allows gallery owners and bookstores to serve alcohol during special events.

The Legislature approved the new one-day liquor permit, which allows the bookstores and galleries to give away or sell beer or wine for up to six hours during an event.

In Brattleboro, the members of the Selectboard also act as the town Liquor Commissioners and at the board meeting Tuesday it voted not to move ahead with issuing the new permits until more information is available.

One of the big questions the Selectboard struggled with was how to define a gallery.

Especially in Brattleboro, where during Gallery Walk many of the downtown shops show art work, the board was not clear on who would be able to apply for the $15 permit.

"It's a big question for Brattleboro," Town Clerk Annette Cappy said to the board while asking for more direction. "Anyone can be a gallery."

The board voted 3-2 to not issue any of the new permits until more information is available.

Town Manager Barbara Sondag told the board that since the Legislature approved the new permit it would be up to the town to decide on its policies.

Cappy said without clear guidelines, galleries or bookstores would be able to apply for a license every day, and she also wanted to know if the board wanted to set up requirements for the gallery and bookstore owners to take alcohol serving training.


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Selectboard member Ken Schneck, who does alcohol and drug prevention training, called the new permit a joke, and said Brattleboro had no need to issue the new liquor permits.

Currently gallery and bookstore owners who want to serve alcohol have to hire a caterer or bar owner with a valid liquor license to serve alcohol in their establishments.

"What is the need?" Schneck asked. "Just because the Legislature gives us an option does not mean we have to do it."

Fellow board member David Gartenstein disagreed with Schneck, saying that the Legislature gave towns the authority to issue the one-day permits and the board should at least do more research before deciding to not allow Brattleboro gallery and book store owners to apply for the permits.

"I am not in favor of just making a blanket decision and not complying with the law," Gartenstein said.

Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition Director Beth Shrader said other prevention groups around the state had similar concerns, and she said they would be watching how Brattleboro handles the new law.

She said the town could limit the number of permits given out annually or require the bookstore and gallery owners to take an alcohol training course before receiving the permit.

Schneck said he would do some more research and the board could take up the issue at a later date.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.