July 9, 2008

Yadkin Will Have Vote on Alcohol Sales

By Sherry Youngquist, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.


A countywide referendum on alcohol is coming to Yadkin County in September, setting off debate about greater access to liquor and beer.

Some county officials say that allowing restaurants throughout the county to sell beer and liquor by the drink would help attract tourists and promote development. But others worry that more sales of alcohol would lead to problems in families.

Yadkin County commissioners have set the referendum for Sept. 9. During a budget work session late last month, they voted 4-1 to schedule the vote. Commissioner Brady Wooten voted against it.

When voters go to the polls, they will be deciding three separate issues -- whether to allow the sale of beer, whether to allow liquor stores, and whether to allow the sale of mixed beverages.

"We feel like the people in Yadkin County should have a say," said Kim Clark Phillips, the chairwoman of the board of commissioners.

It's something that has been discussed for more than two years, said Commissioner Joel Cornelius, who made the motion to request the referendum. The last countywide alcohol vote that he can recall was at least 30 years ago, he said.

Though Yadkin has historically been conservative, things are changing, Cornelius said.

In May 2006, Yadkin voters approved the sale of wine. Then, in September 2006, residents in the county seat of Yadkinville approved beer and mixed-drink sales as well as a liquor store. The county's first liquor store opened in Yadkinville in November.

In neighboring Jonesville, though, voters defeated a similar proposal the same year.

The only chain grocery store in Jonesville, a Food Lion, still doesn't sell wine.

In May, the Jonesville town council voted to remove about 40 grapevines planted outside the new town hall, prompting a debate over the region's growing wine industry and the town's hard line against sales of alcohol. Business owners and economic-development officials wanted the vines replanted. But town council members said they would uproot them again.

If the referendum is approved, Jonesville would have beer and liquor sales for the first time.

But some leaders say they know many who will vote against it.

"I know I've had a lot of people come to me and say they're glad I made the vote I did," said Wooten, who opposed the referendum.

He thinks that Yadkin doesn't need countywide sales of alcohol "for the damage that it can do to families," he said. "I cannot see supporting it."

But economic-development officials say that some residents have noticed that neighboring counties are profiting from alcohol, attracting national restaurant chains, hotels and other development.

"It's just another piece in the puzzle to attract major high-end restaurants. You have to have the availability of liquor by the drink," said Bobby Todd, the executive director of the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce.

Sherry Youngquist can be reached in Mount Airy at 336-789-9338 or at [email protected]


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