Historic First Beer Sold in Downtown Somerset
September 13, 2012 Share

Historic First Beer Sold in Downtown Somerset

As Jeff Murphy walked out of Main Street Deli Thursday afternoon, a case of Coors in hand, his thoughts were short and to the point. “I’m just really glad it’s here,” he said.

The “it” in this case is legal alcohol sales, as Bill Hamilton’s convenience station on North Main Street became the first store to sell beer in Somerset since the county voted to go “dry” following the end of prohibition in 1933.

Another local citizen, media personality John Alexander, stopped by to partake in the history-making event. “It’s a good move for out city to move into the 21st century,” said Alexander, “to sell a substance that’s legal in most of the country anyway.”

Hamilton started selling beer by the package at around 4:30 p.m. He allowed Dave Weddle — founder of Progress Somerset, the organization that got the alcohol vote on the ballot in June — the privilege of buying the first beer. “

It’s not really about buying beer or alcohol, it’s really about the progress that we started, and the choice to be able to do it,” said Weddle. “I love the fact that a downtown community place like Main Street (Deli) is the first one on board.

I think that show’s the city’s commitment to making sure we support local business.” On June 26, Somerset voters overwhelmingly chose to side with Weddle, by a margin of 2,176 for to 1,464 against, allowing sales of alcohol by both the drink and the package in retail stores and restaurants.

Numerous businesses have applied for licenses to sell; Hamilton was the first to get his, obtaining state approval on Wednesday and the green light from the city on Thursday. Hamilton expected an economic boom — with a likely 1,000 cases sold per day, it could add up to $20,000 a year in profit, and that’s after accounting for the cost of paying for the extra employees (Hamilton is hiring at least two new workers to help handle the alcohol load).

“I think it’s going to provide some extra dollars for the City of Somerset,” said Hamilton. “We didn’t want to drop products to add products, so we added to our line; we’re offering more products, so obviously we’re going to make more on the bottom line.”

He added that he will not be selling on Sunday, as the store will be closed, just as it has been throughout his ownership. Weddle said he’s heard from people who have been “anxious” about when things are going to happen.

With more stores set to receive their licenses in coming days and weeks and start selling alcohol, it looks like Somerset’s populace is about to find out.

“I think it’s kind of like the election: There’s that quiet period,” said Weddle, “and now I think you’re going to see a lot of activity in the next couple weeks of a lot of different stores to open up.”

By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal