July 12, 2011

Voters in northern Hatteras villages approve liquor by the drink


By IRENE NOLAN


Voters in the northern Hatteras Island villages of Avon, Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo approved the sale of liquor by the drinks in restaurants in a referendum today.

The vote was 248 in favor and 119 opposed.

According to the unofficial results from the Dare County Board of Elections Director Melva Garrison, the voter turnout was 26 percent of the 1,334 registered voters in the villages.  A total of 367 people went to the polls and approved the sale of mixed drinks by a margin of 67.57 percent in favor and 32.43 percent opposed.

In Avon, the referendum was approved by a vote of 142 for and 71 against.  In the tri-villages, 106 voted for the change and 48 were against.

Restaurants in the northern villages can now apply for ABC permits to sell cocktails, which will even the playing field with restaurants in areas north of Oregon Inlet, the southern Hatteras villages of Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras, and with Ocracoke Island, which has had mixed drink sales since 2007.

“Finally we can compete,” said Fred Sawyer, who owns the Froggy Dog restaurant in Avon with his wife Denise and was an organizer of the effort to get liquor by the drink approved on northern Hatteras.

The organizers conducted a drive over the winter to get 25 percent of the voters in the township to ask for the referendum.  It took them until May, but eventually they got what they needed.

“I am glad that we have finally entered into a new age as a tourist destination,” Sawyer said, referring to the visitors who expect to find mixed drinks in restaurants that have previously been allowed to sell only beer and wine.

Sawyer said he is prepared to apply for his permit to sell liquor by the drink from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission as soon as the referendum results are certified by the Board of Elections. He expects to be selling cocktails this tourist season.

The last time there was a mixed drink referendum in the northern villages was in 2007.

That referendum was island-wide, and was defeated largely by voters in Kinnakeet Township -- Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, and Avon.

In Avon, the vote was 133 against and 80 in favor.  In the tri-villages, 115 voted against and 74 were in favor.

The vote was much closer in the southern villages of Hatteras Township in 2007.  It lost by just a few votes in Buxton and Frisco, and it was approved by Hatteras village voters.

Because of that close vote, organizers in the southern villages decided to go it alone in a referendum last December, which passed with 63 percent of voters in favor and only 37 against.

Even though the referendum was soundly defeated in Kinnakeet Township in 2007, it passed today by a larger margin than it did in the southern villages.

“I’m excited for them,” said Dennis Robinson of Hatteras village who was the organizer of the December vote in Hatteras Township. “I’m glad that everyone can participate and have the opportunity to sell mixed drinks.

Sawyer said he and some other restaurant owners were not happy that they were not included in the referendum last December. 

But he said that he thinks the vote in favor in the southern villages helped their northern neighbors.

Churches that were instrumental in the referendum defeat in 2007 were largely silent this time around.



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