Club makes pitch for liquor by the drink

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2003

WINTON – It’s been 13 years since liquor by the drink has been an issue in Hertford County. If the owners of a local nightclub can gain enough support, liquor sales at food establishments may become an issue once again.

Annie Richardson and Silas Bush, owners of the Forest Inn Restaurant and Club, appeared before the Hertford County Commissioners on Monday morning where they asked for the procedure in obtaining a liquor by the drink permit. Although their establishment lists a Woodland address, it is situated in Hertford County on the Jim Hardy Road off NC 561 between St. Johns and Tri-County Airport.

Currently, there is no legal sale of liquor by the drink in the rural areas of Hertford County. A countywide referendum in 1990 was defeated by a 2,637-to-1,965 margin. From a municipal standpoint, the Town of Winton turned down a mixed beverage request in June of 1991, but one year later (May of 1992), voters in the Town of Ahoskie passed such a request, one made by resolution by the Town Council after hearing a request from a restaurant owner.

In response to the procedural process of allowing for the legal sale of liquor by the drink within the county, Board Chairman Johnnie Ray Farmer referred the request made by the Forest Inn owners to Chuck Revelle, Attorney to the Board of Commissioners.

Revelle, citing from North Carolina State Statutes, said that voters must approve liquor by the drink in Hertford County during a special-called referendum. In order for the Hertford County Board of Elections to call for a special referendum, one of two things must first occur – a resolution, adopted by the County Commissioners, in favor of allowing the citizens to decide the

issue by vote; or a petition, calling for a special referendum, signed by at least 35 percent of the registered voters in the county.

&uot;Once one or the other is accomplished, the county Board of Elections is required to conduct a special referendum no less than 60 days and no more than 120 days after the passage of the resolution by the Commissioners or after the names and precincts of the 35 percent of registered voters has been verified,&uot; explained Revelle.

Revelle went on to explain that once a petition drive begins, the party or parties conducting that effort have 90 days to complete the process.

&uot;There’s about 14,000 registered voters in Hertford County, so you’re looking at having to get at least 4,000 names in just 90 days,&uot; said Commissioner DuPont Davis. &uot;That’s a lot of legwork. May I recommend to you (Richardson and Bush) that you contact other restaurant and nightclub owners in the county to see if they favor offering liquor by the drink. If they do, then perhaps all involved could divide the chores of obtaining the names to meet the required 35 percent of registered voters.&uot;

No further discussion was heard on the matter.