A liquor referendum on the May 21 ballot will let voters decide if Dallastown will allow liquor licenses to be issued. Salvatore and Rose Candela created
A liquor referendum on the May 21 ballot will let voters decide if Dallastown will allow liquor licenses to be issued. Salvatore and Rose Candela created the petition so they can serve alcohol at Sal's Little Italy restaurant. (Bil Bowden)

When drivers approach Dallastown on Route 74, the streets begin to narrow and clusters of shops pop up out of the sidewalks like corn stalks.

And the borough's border is unmistakable.

On the York Township side, establishments such as Beer Mongers and The Glad Crab openly advertise their beer selections.

Dallastown, population 4,000, dries up after crossing the invisible boundary into the borough. That's because the retail sale of alcohol is banned.

But that might soon change. A liquor referendum on the May 21 ballots would allow restaurants to obtain liquor licenses.

Dallastown residents will have to answer yes or no to this question: "Do you favor the granting of liquor licenses for the sale of liquor in the Borough of Dallastown."

Voters must register either Republican or Democrat by April 22 in order to vote. Voters in Dillsburg, which is also dry, will be asked an identical question.

None of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are completely dry, but there are about 600 dry towns. Of those, 31 are in York County. Dallastown and Dillsburg have been dry since 1934.

How it started: Salvatore Candela, owner of Sal's Little Italy Family Restaurant, has been in business in Dallastown for 14 years. He started the petition to put the question on the primary election ballot.

Nikki Suchanic, director of elections for York

County, said Dallastown needed 374 signatures on its petition. Candela's petition drive attracted more than 500.


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He stressed that his business is a family restaurant -- not a bar -- and he wants to be able to serve a glass of wine or beer with dinner. Patrons currently bring their own bottles of alcohol to the family-owned restaurant. Candela said about 67 percent of Dallastown customers bring a bottle.

"Sometimes people drive on (Route) 74, new customers. They come in the door and leave because I don't have wine or anything," he said. "And I'm losing business."

Candela said he and his wife came to the United States in 1979. He said they will vote here for the first time on May 21.

"Fourteen years already, I don't wanna lose nobody. This is my baby," he said. "This is my second home: Dallastown."

Reaction: Jessica Miller, a waitress at the restaurant, said she hasn't come across anyone who has had a problem with the prospect of the restaurant having a liquor license.

"I think everyone is excited for it," she said.

Candela's previous petition had enough signatures in 2011, but it was filed a day late.

"A lot of people feel that he'll get it this time," Miller said.

Evelyn Doral, a customer at the shop, said she thinks the liquor license would be a welcome change.

"It would be amazing," she said. "I think it would promote more business for them. And I would love to come over here once in a while and have a glass of wine."

To the north: In Dillsburg, Council President Jeff Griffin began the initiative to put the liquor question in front of voters.

The Dillsburg Council voted to allow petitions to be circulated to put the referendum on the May 21 ballot. The borough had from Feb. 19 to March 11 to compile 292 signatures and send the paperwork to the county. Council member John Richardson said the petition had in excess of 330 signatures.

He said chain restaurants inquire about alcohol and aren't interested in building in a dry town, so the council wanted to allow Dillsburg residents to decide.

"Times change, and you need to change with it," he said.

What's next: If either referendum passes, it will go to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which will process the votes and work out logistics.

Stacy Kriedeman, deputy director of external affairs of the state LCB, said restaurants can begin to apply for liquor licenses after the board obtains voting results.

"Once the election happens, it could take days or weeks to get certified results," she said.

The York Area Regional Police serve Dallastown borough, and Sgt. Jeff Dunbar said he didn't know if the dry towns serve any safety purposes today.

"Society has changed so much," he said.

He called the law "antiquated," pointing out that Windsor Township has both a beer distributor and a state store, but restaurants there cannot serve alcohol with dinner.

He said it stands to reason that a dry town might decrease the number of alcohol-related crime and accidents, but he has no evidence that is the case.

-- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.