Bertie booze on November ballot

Published 9:19 am Thursday, August 20, 2009

WINDSOR – Citizens of Bertie County will have the opportunity to approve the sale of mixed drinks.

The Bertie County Commissioners, at their Monday night meeting, approved the measure being placed on the November ballot at the request of the Windsor Board of Commissioners.

Windsor Commissioner Collins Cooper and Mayor Pro-Tempore Jimmy Hoggard were present at the meeting to make the request. Cooper said the Windsor Commission unanimously approved seeking approval for economic development reasons.

“It has been projected that the town of Windsor is losing $2 million annually,” Cooper said. “We feel like it would be an economic boon if it were approved.”

Cooper said in a telephone interview with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Wednesday that the information came from a survey done for the town which said more than $2 million was spent annually by people leaving the town to eat at other restaurants.”

“If we could keep just 30 percent of that in town, it would be huge,” Cooper said. “We’re looking at it purely from an economic development standpoint.”

He said surrounding towns such as Ahoskie, Edenton, Plymouth and Williamston all had approved mixed drink sales.

The Windsor board had to come to the county because of North Carolina General Statute 18B-600 which says, “A city may hold a malt beverage or unfortified wine election only if the county in which the city is located has already held such an election, the vote in the last county election was against the sale of that kind of alcoholic beverage and…” other criteria are met.

Bertie County Attorney Lloyd Smith explained the statute and told commissioners they would have to place the matter on the ballot and then, if it were defeated, Windsor officials could proceed with an attempt to have it passed only in their municipality.

Commission Chairman Norman M. Cherry Sr. asked if the decision had to be made Monday night and was told it did if the matter was to get on the November ballot.

Bertie Commissioner Rick Harrell said he didn’t have an issue because all it was doing was putting the matter before voters.

“All they’re asking is to put it before the voters and let the people decide,” he said.

The town and county officials discussed the matter and agreed that what was being requested was a ballot found in NGGS 18B-602(h) which reads, “To permit the sale of mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theaters and convention centers.”

The ballot will have two answers – either for or against.

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb said the town was looking at the referendum as a possible way of improving economic development.

“It’s an economic development proposal,” Lamb said. “As a separate matter, the town also voted to begin paying the county $5,000 annually to help with economic development. They are putting their money where their mouth is.”

Bertie Commission Vice Chairman L.C. Hoggard III made the motion to place the item on the ballot with Commissioner Charles Smith offering a second. It passed without objection.