Those interested in purchasing beer at Main Street Deli had to wait until the late afternoon on Thursday.
A few hours in the day wasn’t too long to bear, however, considering the eight-decade wait to even have the possibility of buying alcohol.
Bill Hamilton, owner of Main Street Deli on North Main Street, became the first local businessman to legally sell beer in Somerset since the county opted to remain dry following the end of prohibition in 1933.
Hamilton received his Retail Malt Beverage license, allowing him to sell beer by the package, from the state on Wednesday, and his corresponding approval from the City of Somerset Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) office on Thursday.
Waiting on a shipment of beer to arrive from another city, Hamilton wasn’t able to start selling to the public until about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Word had gotten out hours beforehand, however, and a massivecrowd showed up to be among the first to purchase beer in previously “dry” Somerset, with a full parking lot and congested traffic around the downtown convenience station.
The very first customer? None other than David Weddle, who launched the Progress Somerset organization that put the alcohol vote on the ballot this past June.
Despite multiple elections in the past which failed to result in a “wet” or “moist” Somerset — that is, allowing the sale of alcohol — this time, Somerset voters overwhelmingly chose to side with Weddle, by a margin of 2,176 for to 1,464 against.
Though Weddle enjoyed the privilege of being the first to taste the fruits of his efforts, he stressed a need to keep the issue in perspective.
“It’s not really about buying beer or alcohol, it’s really about the progress that we started, and the choice to be able to do it,” said Weddle. “I love the fact that a downtown community place like Main Street (Deli) is the first one on board. I think that show’s the city’s commitment to making sure we support local business.”