December 7, 2010

Hatteras Township voters approve liquor by the drink by a decisive margin


Voters in the southern Hatteras Island villages of Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras approved the sale of liquor by drink today by a decisive margin of 63 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed.

According to unofficial results from the Dare County Board of Elections, the tally was 555 votes in favor of the measure, and 322 against.

The total votes cast were 877, which is 36 percent of the 2,435 registered voters in the three villages.

“We made it,” said a very happy Dennis Robinson, the president of the Hatteras Village Civic Association and marketing director of Midgett Realty who took a lead role in the effort to bring mixed drinks to the island.

“We’ve turned a big corner on Hatteras Island,” he said. “This will have a huge economic impact and be very beneficial for businesses.  I appreciate everyone’s support.”

The mixed drink referendum passed by a decisive margin in each of the three villages. The village breakdown, which includes those who voted early, is:

Buxton.  227 or 58.35 percent for and 162 or 41.65 percent against.
Frisco. 159 or 61.87 percent in favor and 98 or 38.13 against.
Hatteras.  161 or 72.20 percent in favor and 62 or 27.80 against.
Absentee by mail.  Eight votes were cast and all were in favor.

The last mixed drink vote on Hatteras Island was in November, 2007 when the measure was defeated 57 to 43 percent.

 The organizers of this year’s referendum decided to focus on the southern Hatteras villages where the 2007 vote was much closer.

The referendum lost by larger margins in Kinnakeet Township – Avon, Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo – in 2007. Avon voted down liquor by the drink by a margin of 53 votes, as did the tri-villages by a margin of 41 votes.

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

The 2007 referendum also tanked in absentee and early voting by a margin of 260 against and 133 for.

Currently, on Hatteras Island, both beer and wine can be sold in properly licensed restaurants and grocery and convenience stores.  Liquor is sold at one ABC store on the island.

However, "brown-bagging” in allowed in restaurants with licenses.  Customers can bring their own bottle and buy mixers, but restaurant staff has little control over how much they are drinking.

Those who were in favor of allowing liquor by the drink feel that restaurants will have more control if they sell the drinks. 

They also feel that there will be a boost to island businesses in a down economy, and that mixed drinks are amenity that many tourists expect.

Mixed drinks have been sold on Ocracoke for 3 years and they are also sold in restaurants on the northern beaches.

The organizers started a petition drive for the referendum last summer.  They needed to get 25 percent of the registered voters in the three villages to sign and be verified by the Dare County Board of Elections. The petition was delivered to the election office and the signatures verified in late September.

Most of the drive for liquor by the drink was much lower key this fall than it had been in 2007 when churches got behind the effort to stop it and signs saying “vote no” lined Highway 12 for weeks.

This year, one group opposed to mixed drinks sent a mailing to post office box holders last week.  The postcard did not say who or what group paid for the mailing, which is a violation of state election laws, according to Melva Garrison, Dare County’s director of elections.

Over the weekend the debate for and against the measure went back and forth on The Island Free Press Editor’s Blog.  And, also over the weekend, “vote no” signs started appearing on Highway 12.

The referendum vote will become official when it is canvassed – or certified – by the county board next Tuesday, Dec. 14.

After that,  liquor by the drink would be available when the permitting by the Dare County ABC Board is complete.

Mixed drinks can be sold in restaurants, hotels, private clubs, community theaters, and convention centers only in Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras.

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