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Bellevue barber wants to end dry-town status

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009
 

The race for alcohol is on in Bellevue, one of seven dry municipalities in Allegheny County.

Local barber Aaron Stubna has three weeks to gather 767 signatures to put a referendum on the May ballot seeking to allow for three liquor licenses.

"Instead of having a ghost town during the weekend, we could have a town bustling with people," said Stubna, 37, of Kennedy, who cuts hair at Lincoln Barber. "We've got to rebuild this business district and, I'm sorry, you need that missing ingredient, which is alcohol."

The number of required signatures was determined by the number of Bellevue residents who voted in the November election.

Bellevue opted to stay dry after Prohibition ended in 1933. According to local lore, two sisters donated a park and local library to keep it that way.

In 2007, 22 formerly dry communities in the state voted to allow liquor licenses." In Allegheny County, Bellevue, Ben Avon, Bradford Woods, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Ingram and Wilkinsburg still have restrictions on sales, either by where alcohol is sold or what type is sold.

In Bellevue, no business can sell alcohol for immediate drinking. While state stores and beer distributors are allowed, that means restaurants are not permitted to sell alcoholic drinks to their patrons.

According to the state Liquor Control Board, the referendum can only appear on the ballot during the primary election of an odd year, which leaves Stubna racing against the clock. It can be passed by a simple majority and tailored to a municipality's needs as permitted by the state Liquor Control Board.

The liquor licenses would allow restaurants that get them to serve liquor, wine and beer. Council would have the final say on who is granted a license.

While there is no organized opposition to the proposal, Mayor George Doscher worries about who might wind up with licenses.

Liquor licenses can benefit the borough's business district, but they aren't a cure-all, Doscher said. Council is concerned about the effect becoming it could have on the police force.

"I think it is a piece of the puzzle," Doscher said. "But it's not necessarily the clinching piece."

Signatures must come from Bellevue residents registered to vote in the borough. Stubna said if he does not collect enough signatures at his barbershop, he will begin going door-to-door. The shop will host a free wine-and-cheese party Saturday with live music where residents can sign the petition.

"It's been a lot of work," said Stubna. "Everything has been leading up to this moment, and we can't let this moment slip by."

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