Will Man Who Saved Snapple Bring Alcohol to Connecticut's Last Dry Town? (Feb. 25 Vote Postponed)

 
A photo of the Bridgewater Village Store from the store's website.

A photo of the Bridgewater Village Store from the store's website.

Editor's note: The referendum today (Feb. 25) on allowing the sale of alcohol in Bridgewater has been postponed, according to a press release from town hall.
"Certain requirements of the Connecticut General Statutes relating only to 'intoxicating liquors' and specifically how a vote to repeal prohibition must be conducted has been brought to our attention recently," the release says. "Upon further legal review of the unique and unusual voting process and the advice of the Connecticut Liquor Control Division, [First Selectman Curtis] Read has decided to postpone the scheduled referendum until further notice."
“I realize that this will be an inconvenience for many residents and for those proposing restaurants that can serve alcohol, but it is better to make sure the state statutes are followed when we do have the Wet/Dry vote," Read said in the release. "We should not risk any legal challenges to a vote on this issue in the future.”
Read told WNPR that a resident found a Connecticut statute stipulating that a vote on allowing the sale of alcohol has to happen as part of a regular town election, and the next one of those will not be until November, 2015.
That process requirement is backed up in a state research paper on "Damp Towns," which discusses the "Local Option" and says:
"The Connecticut Liquor Control Act of 1933, CGS § 30-1 et seq., regulates the sale of liquor in this state. It allows individual towns to vote to determine (1) whether the sale of alcoholic liquor will be permitted in the town, or (2) whether the sale of alcoholic liquor will be permitted in any number of the classes of permits set forth in CGS § 30-15 (CGS § 30-10).
"To accomplish this, at least 10% of a town's electors must sign a petition calling for a vote, and submit it to the town clerk at least 60 days before the date of any regular town election. A vote to ban the sale of alcohol, either completely or by a particular type of liquor permit, takes effect on the first Monday of the month following the election. The ban lasts until a new vote is taken, so long as at least one year has elapsed between votes (CGS §§ 30-9 and 30-10)."
Meanwhile, here's our story on how the synergy between the story of Snapple and the story of alcohol sales in Connecticut's last dry town.

Peter May, the legendary investor who was instrumental in the salvation of the juice and iced tea brand Snapple, is now the protagonist in a different type of liquid pleasure narrative—he’s leading the charge to essentially end Prohibition in Connecticut’s last dry town, small, rural, beautiful and dining-options-deprived Bridgewater.

May and his wife, Leni, live on a magnificent private estate in town called Maywood, which has glorious gardens that are sometimes open for public tours. Maywood’s flowers and other products, such as seasonal produce, maple syrup and honey, are sold at the Bridgewater Village Store, the original home of Bridgewater Chocolate.

But you won’t find another of Maywood’s products at the store that is also owned by May and located in a historic building in the center of town—the homegrown wines produced on the estate. “Due to local laws, we are not allowed to sell the wine in our town,” the Maywood site says.

May, who has been president and a founding partner of Trian Partners since November 2005, and who currently serves as non-executive Vice Chairman of The Wendy’s Company, is out to change that status, in a way. (Above, Peter W. May in a photo from Trian Partners' website.)

He and his wife are proposing opening a restaurant that would serve alcohol in a former Union Savings Bank branch adjacent to the village store, according to The Litchfield County Times.

Meanwhile, Bill Holland, president of Parker Medical, is also considering opening a restaurant in Bridgewater—this one in a former Webster Bank branch not far from the town center, at the intersection of routes 67 and 133.

According to the County Times, the proposals were discussed at a meeting in mid-November, “where the majority of more than 200 residents said they would like to hold a referendum to determine how the issue would be decided.”

That referendum, to be held Feb. 25, will determine if Bridgewater will remain Connecticut’s only dry town or become “partially dry” and allow alcohol to be served in restaurants.

A representative for the Mays, Greg Bollard, told the County Times that they were not interested in pursuing a plan for a restaurant “unless we could serve alcohol.”

If the shedding of the dry status passes, the odds in favor of the Mays’ restaurant being a success look good.

To outsiders, the Bridgewater Village Store, a small market nestled within an outdated space in a town of fewer than 2,000 residents, may seem like a venture that faces some inherent challenges.

But the Mays have spun any potential negatives into positives.

The historic building and location across form town hall lend the business rural integrity and charm. The market offers a full line of homemade breads and baked goods—like delicious scones—and while you can buy milk and other essentials, the heart of the operation is a thriving café offering good coffee, breakfast sandwiches and lots of lunch choices.

Like icing on the cake is the display, and sale, of gourmet Bridgewater Chocolate—a favorite of actress Gywneth Paltrow, and a line that got its start in the store’s basement before becoming so successful that it expanded to a commercial space in neighboring Brookfield.

Artists, writers and Wall Street types cozy up to tables in the market’s small dining space, alongside guys who volunteer on the local fire department, town officials and contractors.

And all of that hometown-but-sophisticated ambiance is embellished with homespun products and brilliant flowers of Maywood.

The fact that Peter May found the right formula should come as little surprise, given his track record. Snapple stands out as just one example.

According to The New York Times, a venture called Triac—controlled by May and Nelson Peltz—agreed to buy Snapple from the Quaker Oats Company for $300 million in 1997.

Here’s what happened after that, from Trian Partners’ website:

“Between 1997 and 2000, while led by Messrs. Peltz and May, Snapple reversed several years of dramatic volume declines by creating a leaner organization eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and focusing on innovative consumer marketing and new product introductions. In 2000, Triarc sold its beverage businesses, which included Snapple as well as three other smaller beverage brands (collectively, with an enterprise value of approximately $1.5 billion) to Cadbury Schweppes.”

The bottom line?

It would seem that residents in Litchfield County and elsewhere in Connecticut can get ready to enjoy at least one new delicious option in a pretty little town with some savvy power brokers invested in its future.

 

Will Man Who Saved Snapple Bring Alcohol to Connecticut's Last Dry Town? (Feb. 25 Vote Postponed)

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