Upper Allen ends 95-year alcohol prohibition with vote

Township Voting To End 95-Year Alcohol Prohibition
Township Voting To End 95-Year Alcohol Prohibition

Update: East Drumore Township in Lancaster County rejected a referendum to end its ban on alcohol sales with 207 – 137 "No" votes.

Update: Upper Allen Township ended their 95-year alcohol prohibition with a vote of 2230 – 879 "Yes" that will now allow the sale of liquor in the township.

UPPER ALLEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It might soon be time to raise a glass for Upper Allen Township.

Voters in the small Cumberland County township of approximately 18,000 people are expected to pass a referendum Tuesday which would legalize alcohol sales for the first time since 1920. When prohibition was repealed nationally in 1933, Upper Allen Township kept its laws in place. Attempts to repeal prohibition locally have failed since.

"People here are conservative. There are a lot of people who don't believe in the consumption of alcohol," Upper Allen Board of Commissioners Vice President Paul Rigney says. "I believe the population is changing."

Changing younger, Rigney estimates, with more people who want more convenience. Currently, if you live in Upper Allen and wish to buy a drink with your dinner, you would have to travel to the Carlisle Pike or City of Harrisburg. Both are 15-25 minute drives.

"People are tired of their money leaving Upper Allen," Karen Cochran says.

Cochran is the head of the group Upper Allen Citizens, a grassroots movement which organized in 2014 to push the end of prohibition in the township. In February, she and approximately 70 volunteers started a drive to get signatures on a petition to get the referendum on the May ballot. She needed 1,378. She got over 2,200.

"We live in the 21st century," Cochran says. "It's time to make a change. People needed that option. It's either 'Yes' or 'No.'"

Rigney anticipates an overwhelming yes, based off the support to get the referendum on the ballot earlier in the year, and also people he's spoken to at the township municipal building.

"Surprisingly, people haven't been coming here for the candidates. They'll say, 'I'm here to vote for the referendum,'" he admitted.

Two restaurants — Pizzatown and Brothers Dining — have already expressed interest to the township they would like to start selling alcohol should the referendum pass. Ending prohibition would also allow for restaurants to enter the township, creating more local business opportunities. An Applebees restaurant was mentioned by Commissioner Rigney as a possibility down the road.

The referendum is only for the sale of alcohol in restaurants. No bars will be built in Upper Allen. No 6-pack shops will be created and no alcohol take-out will be allowed.

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