Seneca, N.Y.— The town of Seneca in Ontario County sits just a few miles away from Seneca Lake’s wine country. However you won’t find any wine in restaurants there. The town is semi-dry. Alcohol sales are allowed in stores but not in restaurants and other venues.
“It would just be nice for my wife and me to go out a couple of blocks away and have a fish fry with a glass of wine or beer on a Friday night,” says Seneca resident Rick Allison.
Allison is also a volunteer firefighter with the Hall Fire District. Hall is a hamlet within the town of Seneca.
Just two months ago, the fire department opened its new fire hall which includes a large banquet space. The firefighters quickly found out that the banquet space would not draw in many events because of the town’s alcohol beverage control (ABC) laws.
“We can't have a wedding [reception] here because the town is dry,” says Allison. “No one can get an off-premise license because they are not available.”
Town Supervisor John Sheppard says he feels Seneca’s economy has been at a disadvantage because of the alcohol laws.
He points to the example of Routes 5 and 20. On the Geneva side, one can see many restaurants and shops. On the Seneca side, it’s far quieter and there aren’t that many businesses.
Sheppard says some of this has to do with the fact that there are no sewer lines in that part of Seneca. The town is now working to bring the sewer lines to the 5 & 20 corridors. However, he says the alcohol limitations don’t help attract businesses.
Sheppard says the town needs to attract more businesses to plan for the future. The landfill in Seneca is the town’s main source revenue, but the lease on the landfill ends in 2028.
“I'm not convinced that there is going to be no derogatory effects of enhancing the ABC laws,” he says. “I'm far more confident that it will help the town fiscally in the future, after the life of the landfill.”
According to Sheppard, the town conducted a survey earlier this year. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they would want restaurants to serve alcohol.
This is the fifth attempt at changing Seneca’s ABC laws. The first attempt was back in 1897.