By CAL Staff
Christian Action League
June 28, 2021
The Christian Action League of North Carolina has learned that Forsyth County Commissioners recently rejected a motion to approve the sale of mixed drinks throughout the county by a slim majority. During the Commissioners meeting last Thursday, Gordon Watkins, Forsyth County attorney, said North Carolina law allows commissioners to declare a county wet when at least three municipalities allow mixed drink sales and more than two-thirds of the county’s residents live in those places. Watkins argued that under the law’s criteria, Forsyth county qualified to take that step. Consequently, three commissioners voted for a motion to make the county wet, while four voted against it, defeating the proposal.
The vote by county commissioners has caused considerable consternation on the part of the owners of Westend Winery and Brewery, who supported the initiative. They were upset because the decision negatively impacts their plans to offer liquor-by-the-drink during the July 4 celebrations. They and other advocates insisted the pandemic has hit restaurants and other businesses which sell alcoholic beverages hard. They contended County Commissioners should go ahead and wet the county so they can move forward with their plans to sell mixed drinks.
In response, Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, issued the following statement:
The Christian Action League, a Christian public-policy organization, addressing alcohol policy in the Tar Heel state for decades, holds that local option alcohol referenda should be respected. It allows the whole community to weigh in by the ballot box on a unique commodity that presents numerous opportunities for abuse and endangerment of the public’s health and safety.
Over my twenty-one years as a lobbyist for the Christian Action League, I have seen lawmakers on behalf of special interests write laws that circumvent the referendum process. I believe the law, 18B 603 Provision D-1 (the statute sited by the county attorney), is just such a measure, which lawmakers would have done better to have never approved.
North Carolina has a unique and effective system that allows communities to determine their own destiny concerning alcohol sales. If the county commission were to bypass the referenda process, they might justify their decision by law, but they would also unquestionably perpetuate the injustice of a statute that disrespects the concerns of thousands of people in their county.
If lawmakers can simply come to Raleigh and write legislation to place mixed drinks wherever they or certain influences decide they ought to be (which they have often done in recent years), local option alcohol referenda is rendered meaningless. The people are robbed of their right to weigh in on the question, or their clearly expressed will via the ballot box in a previous alcohol election is sometimes wrongly overturned.
Understandably, commissioners wish to accommodate businesses that want to sell mixed drinks during the July 4 celebrations, but it is not as though these establishments are not responsible for their current predicament. They should already know our state’s alcohol laws. Their ignorance concerning them should not require something to be done at the expense of the county’s electorate. Since they may have to suffer the negative consequences of county commissioners deciding in favor of a resolution making mixed drinks available county-wide, the electorate should at least have the opportunity to have their say on the matter. There is nothing in the law requiring the commissioners by resolution to wet the county, and they shouldn’t.
Rev. Creech’s statement was sent to the Press located in Forsyth County.
Forsyth County Commissioners will meet again on Thursday, July 1, at 2:00 p.m. The session will be held virtually.
UPDATE: Mixed Drinks Sales Idea Dies (Winston-Salem Journal)
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners has decided not to reconsider allowing mixed-drink sales countywide. After sampling opinions in the towns that don’t allow mixed-drink sales now, commissioners decided there was no need to reconsider last week’s 3-4 vote that rejected a move to allow mixed-drink sales countywide. Clerk to the board Ashleigh Sloop sent out a notice Wednesday morning that the special meeting on Thursday to reconsider the liquor sales issue had been canceled.