The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 1, 2013

Alcohol sales referendum on Gregg Township election ballot

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— ALLENWOOD — When voters in Gregg Township in Union County head to the polls later this month, they will have the opportunity to make the township “wet.”

Currently, the township - which has more than 4,900 residents, 3,800 of which are inmates at the Allenwood Federal Prison Complex, according to the 2010 Census - is dry, which means retail establishments, such as bars or restaurants, cannot serve liquor or beer.

The laws creating the dry Gregg Township date back to 1934 for liquor and 1937 for beer, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

However, not many people realize that Gregg is a dry township, said Gaetano Balsamo, head manager at the Original Italian Pizza in Allenwood. Balsamo found out about four years ago, when he wanted to apply for a license for the restaurant, he said.

“It’s not going to be like a hard liquor bar or a club,” he said. “It’s more to sit back and relax while you’re here.”

But when Balsamo applied to the PLCB, he was told Gregg was a dry township, he said. In order to change that, the proposal to allow the granting of liquor licenses in the township had to get on an election ballot as a referendum.

After failing to get on the ballot two years ago, the proposal will be on the ballot May 21, Balsamo said.

“We’re really excited,” he said. “It’s been a long process and now it’s finally coming to a hot spot.”

Customers are generally in favor of the proposal and the restaurant is trying to get the word out about the ordinance, Balsamo said.

If the proposal passes, the township will be able to grant liquor licenses immediately, said David Masser, chairman of the township’s board of supervisors.

However, due to Pennsylvania’s strict regulation of liquor licenses, first one has to become available, Balsamo said.

“That could take years,” he said.

But he’s not letting that daunting prospect faze him.

“This is the first step,” he said.

Gregg Township is just one of several dry townships in the region, according to the PLCB. In Montour County, three townships have some kind of restriction on alcohol sales; in Northumberland County, two boroughs restrict alcohol; in Snyder County, two boroughs and seven townships restrict alcohol licenses; and in Union County, three boroughs and seven townships restrict the sale of alcohol.