To be a dry-town or not to be

The Haddonfield Sun

The BYOB restaurant scene is vastly popular in local “dry towns” such as Collingswood, Haddon Heights and Haddonfield.

Haddonfield has a unique record of being dry. Residents and commissioners have historically frowned upon the sale of alcohol in town. But for Andy Newell, a Haddonfield resident who owns Cherry Hill’s Flying Fish brewery, alcohol is an extension of American history.

Most don’t realize Haddonfield used to be a “wet town.” The history of the Indian King Tavern proves taverns were a “social gathering,” Newell said standing beside Flying Fish tap dispensers at the Friends of the Indian King Tavern’s second beer tasting on May 18.

In 1873, residents voted for a “local option,” where residents could choose to approve or deny the sale of liquor, according to Haddonfield historian Katherine Tassini.

She said they voted on this item every other year. The biggest majority vote was in 1889–396 residents voted against liquor sales.

It was “significantly rejected” by the community, Tassini said. If the same “local option” practice existed today, residents might turn it down.

Even after Prohibition ended, Haddonfield remained a “dry town.” When commissioners noticed residents attempting to bring liquor sales into the borough in 1933, “it was immediately squashed,” Tassini said.

Liquor sales were only challenged once in 1976 after a local restaurateur attempted to get borough approval of alcohol sales in his establishment.

Michael Heine, owner of The Argyle Rooster, attempted to get beverages served at his restaurant, according to Indian King Tavern volunteer Bill Brown.

“It lost dramatically,” Brown said, adding he compared Haddonfield to towns such as Princeton and Williamsburg — historic and affluently wealthy towns that allow liquor sales.

Historical New Jersey towns such as Princeton, Montclair and others have a “great history of BYOBs and liquor licenses,” Newell said.

“All work comfortably with BYOBs and liquor licenses,” Newell said. “ Maybe you get people that come into Philly to go to Haddonfield. Why can’t we show them what we have to offer?”

Fine dining alongside BYOBs attract many from surrounding areas. However, Newell said Haddonfield residents are leaving to visit the outskirts of town to enjoy a meal and an iced cold brew.

If alcohol were allowed to be sold at restaurants in town, it would draw people in because of the town’s access to PATCO, as well as keep people from attending bars in towns where walking might not be an option, Newell said.

Most Haddonfield restaurants such as The British Chip Shop, Tre Famiglia and da Sol allow diners to bring their own beverage of choice to enjoy with their meal.

Brown said there are two sides to having a “dry town” filled with BYOBs.

“I think it would bring more into the restaurants because you don’t feel like carrying a jug of wine with you or a shaker of cocktails. From the consumer end, it’s a lot cheaper if I bring my own,” Brown said.

Newell said people turn to alcohol during times of economic downturn. Even if Haddonfield residents and commissioners reject future attempts at liquor sales, Newell said there is always an option for someone to open a brewery in town, bringing a part of not only Haddonfield history, but also American history to the already historically rich borough.

“Question isn’t why, it’s why not?” Newell asked.