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Chester County Press

An old issue of no alcohol sales comes up in Franklin Township

11/15/2018 01:07PM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

A funny thing happened in Franklin Township after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. The township voted to stay “dry,” that is, to prohibit the sale of beer and liquor. There was a referendum in 1967 that asked if residents wanted to change that, but they didn't. So the township has remained without a retail liquor establishment ever since.

That anomaly came to the attention of the Board of Supervisors recently, taking some by surprise. Board chairman John Auerbach said last week that, “The wineries and breweries can sell drinks by the glass as permitted by the Liquor Control Board, but a restaurant cannot sell drinks by the glass. Archaric legislation. There's lots of discussion and information to be developed. Three years ago, an Inquirer reporter called me and asked why we were a dry township. I was unaware of the restriction.”

But turning on the sale of liquor is not easy. A petition has to be submitted to township residents, and more than 557 signatures from registered voters have to be obtained. The collection of signatures can begin in February 2019 at the earliest. If enough are obtained, the petition is sent to Chester County Voter Services, where the question will be placed on the ballot and residents can formally vote in May.

Township solicitor Mark Thompson has compiled information for the Board of Supervisors, and the board debated the issue at their Nov. 14 meeting.

If the decision is eventually made to allow liquor sales in the township, there can be varying degrees allowed. Under state law, townships can prohibit sales of certain types of alcohol while permitting others. Dozens of counties in Pennsylvania are partially day and partially wet. Some allow beer sales at a pizza parlor, for example, while prohibiting sales of wine or mixed drinks. Some restrict retail liquor sales but allow state stores to operate. The decision is up to the voters.

There's another wrinkle as well. Chester County's population at last count was 498,886, so the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board should permit only 166 liquor sale licenses, or one license per 3,000 residents. But there are 325 retail liquor licenses in the county already, so the quota has been far exceeded. If Franklin Township, whose population at the last census was 4,352, gets approval, only one license would be granted. Since the county is already overcrowded, the Liquor Control Board will not create a new license. It will approve the transfer of one existing Chester County license to a business in Franklin Township. After that time, businesses will have to get approval from the township and the Liquor Control Board for license transfers.

The price of such a license varies widely, depending on the type of license and the demand. Licenses in Pennsylvania have sold for as little as $5,000 or up to $400,000.

All this is going to be a challenge for the Board of Supervisors, with a lot of footwork required to gather verified signatures and then submit the proper paperwork. The issue will likely resonate with the township's 3,387 registered voters, but in the midterm election, only 2,232 voters bothered to cast votes, so turnout could vary. The fact that there has been no public outcry to change the liquor laws since 1933 is a hint that residents might be OK with things as they are.

More developments will be taking place in the coming months. For updated township information, visit www.franklintownship.us.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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