September 13, 2012: Pro-alcohol sale activist Dave Weddle strolled into Main Street Deli on a warm afternoon and put his purchase on the counter. A humble can of beer passed hands between him and store owner Bill Hamilton, their heads turned to smile for a reporter’s camera.
Already a crowd had started to form; it would grow larger within a few short hours, as people lined up claim their own share of history.
It’s been one year since the first beer was sold in Somerset since the end of Prohibition.
It was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people — some for alcohol sales in Somerset, some against. Proponents said it would result in new economic opportunities — more jobs, more tax revenue — and safer streets with increased police funding. Opponents worried that it would result in a greater number of drunk drivers on the road, and an overall rise in alcohol-related social ills.
So is Somerset any better today for alcohol’s presence, one year later? Is it any worse? Is it any richer, or less safe?
The impact of alcohol on Somerset’s financial well-being so far may be debatable. A “wet”-sider could point to the near omnipresence of beer in local stores as a sign of its popularity; a “dry”-sider could ask where all the new businesses are a year later.
One thing is for certain: The City of Somerset itself has made itself some serious cash.
From September 2012 through August 2013, alcohol sales in Somerset have totaled $11,706,553, according to information on www.cityofsomerset.com. From that, the city government has made $470,668 in regulatory fees.
This has allowed the city a little extra financial wiggle room for various projects, with the alcohol money going to help pay for Somerset’s law enforcement.