July 12, 2005

Glass of vodka snaps Massachusetts town’s dry spell

ROCKPORT, Mass. (Reuters) - An ice-cold tumbler of vodka
garnished with two speared pearl onions made history on Tuesday
as the first alcoholic drink sold since 1933 in the coastal
town of Rockport, Massachusetts.

"It's a great day for Rockport," toasted a beaming Peter
Beecham, who led the effort to lift the town's ban on the sale
of alcohol. "And this," he added, raising his $7.50 glass of
Grey Goose vodka on the rocks, "is very good."

Until this week, Rockport, a quaint resort about 40 miles
north of Boston, was one of 17 towns in Massachusetts where the
sale of alcohol is illegal, in some cases to the detriment of
the tourist industry.

"I don't think the ban ever made sense," said Bruce Coates,
owner of the Emerson Inn by the Sea, where the first drink was
sold during a lawn party overlooking the ocean. "We've had
people cancel their reservations with us when we told them this
was a dry town."

The United States banned the sale of alcohol from 1920 to
1933, the days of so-called Prohibition, but many towns still
have old ordinances mandating that restaurants offer only soft
drinks on their menus.

In Rockport, however, the ban on booze had a much deeper
history. On the morning of July 8, 1856, a band of 200
hatchet-wielding women angry that their men spent too much
money and time in local taverns raided the local watering holes
and destroyed every drop of alcohol in town.

Rockport was henceforth dry, except for a year after
Prohibition ended. During that time, when patrons of a
toilet-less tavern used a nearby alley to relieve themselves,
much to the neighbors' displeasure, the ban was swiftly

Beecham, who has lived in Rockport for 14 years, said he
hoped that allowing restaurants and inns to serve alcohol would
help the local economy, but that bars and liquor stores would
not be built.

While sales of alcohol were banned in Rockport, restaurant
patrons could bring their own wine and in many cases did.
"This was not a completely dry town," admitted Coates, holding
a flute of champagne. "There was plenty of drinking going on."