By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
Pro-alcohol forces in Kings Mountain and Chatham County won out on Tuesday as both areas approved the sale of liquor by the drink.
Even so, the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, encouraged community leaders in other parts of the state not to give up on keeping alcohol at bay.
“The Christian Action League can help communities battle liquor sales, but it takes a concerted and well-coordinated effort,” said the Rev. Creech.
Chatham County voters approved mixed drinks nearly two to one, with the Board of Elections showing 5,073 votes for LBD and 2,710 against. Voter turnout was under 19 percent. The referendum was much closer in Kings Mountain – 1,129 to 1,059 – with only a 70-vote difference and a turnout of around 35 percent.
Proponents of mixed drink sales in both areas had promised voters that making alcohol more available would attract economic development, bringing in well-known restaurants and more local jobs. But opponents expect instead increases in alcohol use and related social problems that frequently accompany broader liquor sales.
Prior to the election, Keith Miller, a former Kings Mountain City Councilman, pointed out the fallacy that mixed drinks would bring instant attention from national restaurant companies.
“We’ve got Shelby 10 miles to the west and Gastonia 10 miles to the east, so we’re in the middle of two population centers and no national restaurant chain is going to locate in Kings Mountain unless they already have successful locations there, and many chains have policies against having locations so close,” Miller said. “… Liquor by the drink won’t change that.”
Miller and others with Citizens for Safe Progress worked to get out the vote among mixed drink opponents and had challenged the legality of the referendum from the start as controversy surrounded the collection of signatures for the referendum petition.
Promoters of mixed drinks had approached voters standing in line to cast ballots for the general election on Nov. 4, 2008, telling them they needed to sign the petition “to be able to vote.” Although they meant that the signatures would bring about a vote on mixed drinks, some misunderstood and signed the paper thinking they needed to do so to be able to vote in the election that day. More than 75 people who signed petitions later had their names removed. Nonetheless, the state Board of Elections found supporters had enough signatures to proceed with the referendum.
Officials in Kings Mountain and Chatham County expect some restaurants to immediately apply for permits to begin selling mixed drinks.