September 22, 2010

Hatteras may be voting again on liquor by the drink


Hatteras islanders may be voting again this year on the controversial issue of liquor by the drink in local restaurants and other venues.

However, if the issue makes it onto the ballot for a referendum on Dec. 7, it will be only southern Hatteras islanders who will be able to vote and only establishments in the southern villages that would be able to sell liquor by the drink if it passes.

Melva Garrison, director of the Dare County Board of Elections, confirmed yesterday that a group of Hatteras islanders had turned in a petition for a referendum in Hatteras Township yesterday.

If all of the signatures on the petition are certified as registered voters in the villages of Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras, the issue will go before the Board of Elections at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 28.  If the board agrees, it would set a referendum for Dec. 7, Garrison said.

The organizer of this year’s attempt to get mixed drinks into restaurants that by law can serve only beer and wine on Hatteras Island is Dennis Robinson of Midgett Realty, who signed the request with the board of elections to get the petition drive started.

“I feel it would be a great amenity for the three villages for people to be able to have a mixed beverage in a restaurant,” Robinson said.

He said, and other restaurant owners confirm, that many visitors continue to order mixed drinks at restaurants and are surprised to find they are not available.

And Robinson noted another reason that played a prominent role in a failed 2007 referendum on liquor by the drink – it is available on the northern beaches and has been available to the south in Ocracoke since early 2007.

This, supporters say, would “level the playing field” in the Hatteras villages.

Robinson said that this year’s petition drive focused on Hatteras Township – Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras village – because organizers thought that, based on the 2007 vote, the referendum has a better chance of passing on the southern end of the island.

It lost by larger margins in Kinnakeet Township – Avon, Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo – in 2007.

Those villages also sought a referendum on liquor by the drink, Garrison said, but did not garner enough signatures.

In order to succeed in getting a referendum, the organizers needed to get the signatures of 25 percent of the registered voters in Hatteras Township.  That would be, Garrison said, 581 signatures, all of which must be verified.

Robinson said that the organizers went over the various petitions that were located in different island establishments to eliminate duplicates and people they thought were not local registered voters – such as tourists.  He says they ended up turning in a petition with about 600 signatures that they feel will pass muster.

The 2007 referendum on mixed drinks was defeated by a decisive margin.  Results were 855, or 56.55 percent, against and 657 or 43.45 percent in favor.

However, the referendum fared much better in Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras than in the northern villages.  It lost by only seven votes in Buxton, one vote in Frisco, and actually won by 33 votes in Hatteras.

By contrast, Avon voted down liquor by the drink by a margin of 53 votes, as did the tri-villages by a margin of 41 votes.

The referendum also tanked in absentee and early voting by a margin of 260 against and 133 for.

In 2007, the opposition to liquor by the drink was led by island churches, and that is expected to be the case again this year.


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