Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Town begins researching liquor ordinances

With the approval of referendums allowing package stores and liquor-by-the-drink in the Nov. 4 election, the Town of Erwin has wasted no time setting the stage for potential businesses to move into town.
The vote passed by similar figures in each category, with the liquor-by-the-drink referendum passing by a 760-552 vote and package store referendum passing with a 776-534 tally.
As a result, the town has begun the process of looking into drafting ordinances that pertain to the referendums. Mayor Doris Hensley said that the town has been looking at other small towns in the area, such as the Town of Unicoi, to see how they have handled liquor permits.
The package store referendum allows for the purchase of liquor from stores for the purpose of being consumed off of the premises.
The liquor-by-the-drink referendum allows for the consumption of an alcoholic drink within the confines of a restaurant. Hensley said that the referendums have been years in the making.
“Many, many years ago, the referendums were always discussed behind closed doors and it’s never really been promoted and actually gotten on the ballot,” said Hensley.
With the passing of the referendums in this year’s elections, the ordinances will be implemented to appropriately govern the new privileges.
“We can put limits on the number of licenses that we will issue,” said Hensley. “We are in the process of gathering some ordinances from other cities our size that have liquor-by-the-drink and just seeing how they have control over theirs. We will be working closely with the planning commission and the zoning board to figure out what is best for the city.
“With it just starting out, we will probably have some limits on the number of licenses we will allow for the package stores. At some point, I think the market will dictate the number of licenses that need to be issued.”
Hensley said that the stores will be regulated according to state laws and economic benefit. In many of the ordinances, Erwin has observed from other towns, the towns usually zone exactly where the stores will go. The stores will be placed in parts of town that make the most economic sense, yet comply with the state laws. State law mandates that liquor stores be a specific distance from schools and churches.
Former Erwin mayor Russell Brackins also believes that the referendums will provide a significant economic boost to the town.
“I think the passing of the referendum will be quite an asset to Erwin,” said Brackins. “They were losing a lot of revenue from people going outside of the area to buy alcohol. I am not supporting the consumption of liquor, just the referendum. People that do wish to purchase and consume liquor should be able to do so here in Erwin.”
“A small town needs as much revenue as it can get and I think the people spoke when they voted for it.”
Both Hensley and Brackins expressed optimism that the passing of the liquor-by-the-drink referendum will lead to new restaurants coming to town in the future.
“We want restaurants to locate inside the Town of Erwin and I think that by having (the referendum) brought to their attention, we can see some restaurants that will locate here,” said Hensley. “I’ve had a couple of restaurants in the past ask about liquor-by-the-drink and because we did not allow the sale of it, they chose to locate in other cities. So we have lost some restaurants because we haven’t had liquor by the drink.”
On why the referendums were not available in the past, Hensley said that the town simply wasn’t ready.
“Two years ago, we tried to get enough signatures to get it on the ballot and we couldn’t get enough,” said Hensley. “This year, I think it was just the right time. With the downtown renovations that we’re doing, with the economy the way it is, I think the people see that we’re going to be very responsible in how we govern this.”