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ARGYLE — A grassroots group of concerned citizens aims to make this dry town wet again.

“We feel, as a group and community, that revenue for the town is an issue. We want to get the question of licenses for the sale of alcohol on the ballot in November,” said Jason Lloyd, organizer of the Repeal Argyle Prohibition Committee. “The other counties get a percentage of the beverage tax based on sales. Argyle has received exactly zero.”

The committee is circulating petitions calling for a “Wet Town Now,” in hopes of securing the required 353 signatures of registered Argyle voters by the end of the summer to get the referendum on the ballot.

“In the 1930s, Argyle voted to remain dry. There was a large temperance movement here,” said Lloyd, about the town remaining dry after Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

Argyle is one of eight New York towns that remained dry after the U.S. Congress voted in 1933 to allow the manufacture and sale of alcohol, ending 13 years of Prohibition.

Since then, Argyle has held votes to change that early decision in 1936, 1941, 1947, 1950, 1955, 1968, 1970, 1977, 1989 and 2000. But the town voted each time to stay dry.

“The town is divided on the issue,” said Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke on Tuesday, adding that he initially gave the committee the information about how to get a referendum on the November ballot. “I remember a half a dozen times where it lost pretty soundly. But there seems to be a different approach this time.”

Pointing to Argyle Brewing (not located in Argyle) and Dry Town Hops, Henke said there are now local farms and businesses tied to beer production and sale.

Lloyd’s business is Dry Town Hops, but he said the initiative is not tied to his Argyle business.

But he did say that Argyle loses the opportunity for new business because sales are not allowed.

“(If passed) We would be allowing someone the option to start a new business — a tavern, a pub — to come into town,” Lloyd said. “We’re giving someone the opportunity to apply for an SLA (State Liquor Authority) retail license.”

Lloyd said that without the ability to get a state license, the town is not being proactive when it comes to craft breweries.

“We are not allowing locally produced beers to be sold in local businesses,” he said.

Additionally, he said, Argyle is losing out on alcohol tax revenue collected by the state, distributed to the county, which disperse the funds for town expenses based on the percentage of alcohol sales in the town.

Without sales, there is no revenue, he said.

“For the last 86 years, New York state has generated a significant amount of revenue from the tax of alcohol,” Lloyd said. “In 2018, New York state collected $259,251,947 in alcohol tax revenue.”

As a matter of reference, according to the state Department of Taxation, New York collects an excise tax from alcohol vendors on wine, liquor and beer. In addition to the state sales tax and federal excise tax, wine vendors pay $0.30 per gallon for all wine sold; beer vendors $0.14 per gallon; liquor vendors $6.44 per gallon.

Argyle’s dry status does not prohibit people from drinking alcohol in their homes, but bans local sales of alcohol.

As part of the referendum, Argyle voters would be asked to vote on four SLA-approved questions, including the following:

  • Should a person be allowed to apply for a retail tavern license?
  • Should a person be allowed to apply for a retail restaurant alcohol license?
  • Should a person be allowed to apply for a retail store license (liquor or wine store?
  • Should a person be allowed to apply for a retail off-premise sale license (grocery, convenience, drug stores)?

Lloyd said if residents not registered to vote cannot sign the petition. But there is still time to register to vote, then sign.

For more information contact: RepealArgyleProhibition@gmail.com

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Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli covers Washington County government and other county news and events.

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