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No liquor by the drink on November ballots

Brad Hicks • Sep 7, 2012 at 10:01 PM

ERWIN — Referendums for liquor by the drink in Unicoi County and the town of Erwin will not appear on the November general election ballots for voters in these municipalities as petitions for the referendums failed to garner enough valid signatures before Friday afternoon’s submission deadline.

Unicoi County Deputy Administrator of Elections Teresa McFadden said no additional signatures were submitted before Friday’s 5 p.m. petition deadline. McFadden said the signatures were last submitted to the Election Commission office in late August. McFadden said 45 approved signatures were turned in for the county’s referendum petition, and 59 signatures were submitted for the Erwin referendum. A total of 192 approved signatures were needed on the petition for Unicoi County voters, and 153 were needed for the town’s.

Earlier this year, Unicoi County resident John Day started a pair of petitions to have liquor by the drink referendums placed on the November ballot for voters in the town of Erwin and Unicoi County. If the referendums had appeared on ballots and were passed by voters, they would have allowed restaurants located in the town and county to sell liquor and wine.

Day said Friday that he is not a drinker himself, but started the petitions in an effort to bring additional revenues to the area and encourage business and tax revenue growth. Day said that while having liquor by the drink in the municipalities would not have guaranteed that restaurants would set up shop in the area, he said not having it as an incentive could discourage those possibly looking to locate to the area.

Day said each of the petitions had enough signatures quantity-wise, with the Unicoi County petition garnering around 200 and the town’s petition seeing around 300. However, these signatures had to come from registered voters to be counted toward the required totals for the referendums. Day said he is more disappointed in the number of people in the area who are not registered to vote than failure to obtain enough valid signatures on the petitions.

“I would rather see people registered to vote and out voting because if you don’t do that, you’re certainly giving away a big privilege,” he said. “If people don’t register and vote, they have no right to complain about how government is run.”

He also said whether he again attempts to have the liquor by the drink referendums placed on the ballots depends on public reaction. Day said he feels more public support for the efforts is needed before trying again.

“I just think it wouldn’t be worth the effort again if people don’t get behind it between now and election time next time,” Day said.

Since the petitions were started, the liquor by the drink issue has been the subject of opposition by some in the community. A pair of prayer meetings were held for those opposed to passage of liquor by the drink in Unicoi County and Erwin. Edd Bolton, who was involved in the organization of both of these meetings, said Friday that he was “tickled” that the petitions did not receive the required number of valid signatures.

“I just want to contribute it to the power of prayer,” Bolton said. “I think we owe it all to God and the power of prayer.”

However, voters in the town of Unicoi, which enacted liquor by the drink within its limits in 2006, will cast their votes on a package store referendum that will appear on the November ballot.

A petition started earlier this year by Unicoi resident Charles Lynch for a referendum to allow package stores within the town’s limits has already been submitted to the Unicoi County Election Commission office with the required number of valid signatures.

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