Pitman residents react to borough wine sales

PITMAN — As a downtown cafe becomes the first business to sell wine in the borough’s history, residents and shoppers were split Sunday on how they felt about local businesses offering alcohol.

The Bus Stop Music Cafe started serving and selling bottles of Auburn Road wine Aug. 21, acting as an outlet for the Pilesgrove vineyard. Wine will be the only alcoholic beverage available at restaurants in town for now, but this is still a big jump from Pitman’s history as a dry town. A BYOB policy that extends to sidewalk dining has been in place for just a year.

“I think in this business climate, you have to evolve,” said Jim Pierpont, a borough councilman and owner of Pitman Cards and Gifts on Broadway. “It fits very well for the Bus Stop. I can see other restaurants in town taking advantage of it and I wish them well.”

Liz Agren, a 13-year resident who lives on Broadway, said she would prefer to see Pitman keep its traditional limit on alcohol in place. The decision to allow wineries to sell their wares at designated outlets comes from the state government, however, and council has no say in the matter — a fact that did not seem to bother Mayor Russ Johnson or Police Chief Robert Zimmerman last week.

“I think it should stay a dry town,” Agren said as she watered the flowers on the sidewalk near her home. “It’s been a dry town for all these years, and it should stay that way. They still have their problems, but they’ll have more with alcohol. If you want alcohol, bring your own.”

A woman from out of town who was shopping across the street saw it differently.

“I don’t see why not,” she said. “If you can have a drink in the next town over, then why not here? It’s a quaint little town, but I don’t think that’s necessarily because it’s a dry town.”

Renee Marino, a customer at Pitman Cards and Gifts, said she was fine with it as long as those who indulged were respectful of the neighborhood. Establishments serving the wine will not act as bars; the wine must be purchased by the bottle.

“I’m all for it, and I’m not even a drinker, Marino said. “The wineries will get business, Bus Stop will get more business and it’s good for the clientele. It’s been 110 years. It’s not a liquor store or anything. I just hope people respect that they get to drink here and don’t cause problems.”

A woman walking her dog on Broadway said she had no strong feelings on either side.

“I don’t feel either way,” said Melissa Pluta, who has lived in Pitman for 14 years. “The older generation may have issues, but I think a lot of people are happy. Pitman’s moving up with the times.”

Andy Polhamus may be reached at apolhamus@southjerseymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajpolhamus. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook.

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