Battle for alcohol ends with 3-2 vote in favor

Taylor Pardue Staff Reporter

August 15, 2013

The “ayes” have it in Jonesville’s battle over alcohol.

Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of putting an alcohol referendum up for a citizen vote. The vote will likely come on November’s commissioner/mayoral election ballot, but the town must contact the Yadkin Board of Elections to do so, officials said.

Town commissioners Danny Lewis, Tracy Wall, and Wayne Moore voted to allow the referendum to come to a vote, while Gene Pardue and Andy Green voted against the measure.

Jonesville’s town hall meeting was packed Monday night as a new call for an alcohol referendum made its way to a vote.

Town commissioners were lobbied by the Jonesville Tourism Development Authority (TDA) for a new referendum following a TDA meeting last month.

Vanessa Caudill and Deborah Clark, both of the TDA - and the Comfort Inn and Hampton Inn respectively - made the official request before the board prior to the vote.

Caudill said the sale of alcohol would help keep Jonesville competitive with other interstate towns. She said she had seen several customers leave her hotel because they could not serve alcohol and would likely not return.

The typically short or nonexistent public comment period was entirely taken up and was allowed to run a few minutes longer due to the nature of the topic at hand. Both sides of the issue took to the podium with many running over their three minute speaking limit.

Town Manager Scott Buffkin repeatedly had to stop speakers as their time ran out and they showed no signs of slowing down.

God was called down on both sides, with each side invoking His name to make their arguments.

Several of those for the referendum identified as Christians and said the choice for alcohol was not against their beliefs and made sense financially, as some were business owners themselves.

Others represented churches in the area. Some simply wanted to be heard as individual citizens looking for their voice to be heard.

Political representation was also spotlighted. Many questioned why the board was the only party allowed to rule on alcohol. Why did the people not have a say in this major decision?

Others gave the opposite argument, citing the election of officials as representatives for the people as the board’s authority for making the call on alcohol.

One woman, after having heard many of the speakers present their case, asked Mayor Pro-Tem Gene Pardue to have the people present who actually lived in Jonesville to stand up.

Many people were listening from outside in the lobby due to a lack of standing and sitting room inside the hall, causing some to call out to the board that those outside were not being fairly represented.

Several speakers - including Jeff Eidson of G&B Energy, Pastor Allen Barker of Northwood Baptist Church, and Vanessa Caudill and Deborah Clark - were not from Jonesville and acknowledged the fact. Each said they had a vested interest in the vote, but their positions differed greatly.

As the board finally came to a vote Commissioner Danny Lewis spoke to the assembled audience.

Lewis, considered by some to be the swing vote on the issue, told the crowd that after much prayer he would vote in favor of the referendum.

Lewis told those present that he had began his term with the intention of opposing alcohol totally. However, he would do so with his one vote on the ballot, not by being a tyrant and not allowing people to make their own choices.

Lewis said he had drawn sharp criticism over the decision from members of the community as well as his own church, who told Lewis they would not pay for his Sunday morning radio program, allow him to preach, or allow him to vote if he supported the referendum.

Lewis had previously decided not to run for reelection this November.

One woman in the crowd spoke out as the vote was about to begin, saying that she would hold Commissioner Pardue to his word on voting against alcohol. She also said Commissioner Wayne Moore had a vested interest in the alcohol referendum as he was preparing to open his own vineyard.

Moore told The Tribune after the meeting ended that he was not opening a vineyard or winery, but was an employee of Grassy Creek Winery north of Elkin.

Jonesville Police Chief Roger Reece and several officers stood by the podium and paths leading to the commissioners’ seating to prevent the crowd from getting out of hand. Later they helped police the lobby and entrance as the two opposing sides left the town hall and made their ways outside.

The choice over alcohol now goes to the people of Jonesville.

The vote is to be held as soon as convenient, according to the TDA request. The hope is for the vote to appear on the ballot in November, but Town Manager Scott Buffkin said he would have to check with the Board of Elections to make sure that was possible.

To contact Taylor Pardue call 336-835-1513 ext. 15, or email him at tpardue@civitasmedia.com.