An ice-cold tumbler of vodka garnished with two speared pearl onions made history on Tuesday as the first alcoholic drink sold since 1933 in the coastal town of Rockport, Massachusetts.

"It's a great day for Rockport," toasted a beaming Peter Beecham, who led the effort to lift the town's ban on the sale of alcohol. "And this," he added, raising his $7.50 glass of Grey Goose vodka on the rocks, "is very good."

Until this week, Rockport, a quaint resort about 40 miles north of Boston, was one of 17 towns in Massachusetts where the sale of alcohol is illegal, in some cases to the detriment of the tourist industry.

"I don't think the ban ever made sense," said Bruce Coates, owner of the Emerson Inn by the Sea, where the first drink was sold during a lawn party overlooking the ocean. "We've had people cancel their reservations with us when we told them this was a dry town."

The United States banned the sale of alcohol from 1920 to 1933, the days of Prohibition, but many towns still have old ordinances mandating that restaurants offer only soft drinks on their menus.

In Rockport, however, the ban on booze had a much deeper history. On the morning of July 8, 1856, a band of 200 hatchet-wielding women angry that their men spent too much money and time in local taverns raided the local watering holes and destroyed every drop of alcohol in town.

Rockport was henceforth dry, except for a year after Prohibition ended. During that time, when patrons of a toilet-less tavern used a nearby alley to relieve themselves, much to the neighbors' displeasure, the ban was swiftly reinstated.

Beecham, who has lived in Rockport for 14 years, said he hoped that allowing restaurants and inns to serve alcohol would help the local economy, but that bars and liquor stores would not be built.

While sales of alcohol were banned in Rockport, restaurant patrons could bring their own wine and in many cases did. "This was not a completely dry town," admitted Coates, holding a flute of champagne. "There was plenty of drinking going on."


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