Mixed drink referendum on the horizon for Jefferson

By Alan Bulluck

March 27, 2014

Voters in the town of Jefferson may soon be voting on whether or not to allow businesses to serve liquor by the drink.

At the monthly meeting of the Jefferson Board of Aldermen, on Mar. 25, Allen Pruitt, owner of Coaches Sports Grill, asked the board to consider allowing voters the opportunity to vote on a mixed-drink referendum, and they obliged.

The board unanimously voted to give town manager Cathy Howell the authority to start the process of looking into a possible referendum.

According to Howell, the board will have to pass a resolution and set a date for a special election before the public can vote on it.

“We’re losing business,” Pruitt said. “We just don’t have the business we thought we’d have.”

Pruitt said that many patrons often head to West Jefferson for cocktails once they discover such beverages are outlawed in Jefferson.

“People close to me, good friends, they come in and tell me how much they like the place but eventually take off to West Jefferson,” Pruitt said.

In 2007, voters in West Jefferson approved a mixed drink referendum, 226-151.

Since then, several bars and restaurants such as Boondocks Brewing Tap Room and Restaurant and The Hotel Tavern, among others, have sprung up, breathing new life into the town.

“In order to save what I’ve built, I need it (liquor by the drink),” Pruitt said. “The town needs it.”

Alderman Mark Johnston voiced his agreement.

“We need to be able to retain theses businesses,” Johnston said. “Whatever will pull people over here, we need people over here.”

Johnston cited the added tax revenue as a benefit to businesses offering liquor by the drink.

Johnston also noted that if a restaurant chain such as Chili’s or Applebees wants to move to the area, they’ll bypass Jefferson because of the regulation.

In addition to Johnston, Mayor Bluferd Eldreth and aldermen Wes Williams and Max Yates were present at the meeting.

In other business, Howell said she is working on an official proclamation honoring the late Franklin “Junior” Anderson Jr.

Anderson, who passed away on Feb. 22, served on the Board of Aldermen for 22 years.

Howell also told the board that due to new regulations, all street signs in Jefferson will have to be replaced by 2018. Street signs with all capital letters are being phased out.

“It’s not gonna be cheap,” Howell said.

Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @abulluck.