Fifty years ago this month, the Wadesboro town council approved a drinking ordinance barring anyone from having open alcoholic beverages in public.
“Whereas, numerous acts of lawlessness, violence and intimidation have occurred in our community over the past months,” the ordinance read, according to the April 6, 1967 issue of the Anson Record. “And whereas, it is the duty of the mayor and town council of the town of Wadesboro to maintain law and order within their jurisdiction and to safeguard the public health, safety, and welfare; and whereas, these acts bring discredit upon our community and threaten the safety and security of all citizens; and whereas, the mayor and members of the town council deplore all acts which threaten the safety and security of our citizens and bring discredit upon our community and its citizens…”
The ordinance was passed April 3, 1967 and had seven points:
• asking authorities to end racial violence in the community;
• asking citizens to “make a personal commitment to work for a cessation of all lawlessness and violence in our community and to work for better race relations and to support public officials in their efforts;”
• asking law enforcement to arrest those committing lawless acts, imploring citizens to give authorities information to help authorities with their charge;
• asking all employers to “re-examine the fitness for continued employment of all employees who are members of any organization which advocates or participates in spreading fear, intimidation, threats and violence among our citizens;”
• rededicating the council’s commitment to ending racial violence and tensions; and
• to “support the resolutions heretofore adopted by the Board of Commissioners of Anson County, civic clubs, the Wadesboro-Anson Chamber of Commerce, and the manufacturers and other industrial employers of Anson County to the end that once again we may all take pride in our community and its good name across our Great State and Nation.”
The law has changed only slightly since then.
“Under the sidewalk café zoning ordinance, a restaurant can, among other things, legally serve food and alcohol on a limited sidewalk area if certain conditions are met,” town manager Alex Sewell said in an email.
Sewell said he believed the council allowed open alcoholic containers on the street once when it “temporarily extended Oliver’s Restaurant sidewalk dining permit for a festival.”
Other ordinances also address the beverages.
“All malt beverages and/or wine sales on Sundays between the hours of 12:00 noon and 7:00 a.m. on the following Monday shall be off-premises only,” Section 8.3 reads. The town’s golf cart ordinance bans open containers of alcohol on public roads.
County alcohol controversy
Voters have some direct control of the sales.
“The town council may at any time, upon petition filed by 15 percent of the voters who voted in the last municipal election of the town, call an election for the purpose of submitting the question of whether or not town alcoholic beverage control stores may be operated in the town,” Article VIII, section 8.1 reads. The election must be held within 60 days of the council setting a date.
But if a county referendum is called within 30 days of the notice of the election, the election must be delayed.
“If at such county election, a majority of the votes cast shall be for county liquor control stores, the municipal election provided for herein for the town may not be held, but if, at such county election, a majority of the votes cast shall be against the establishment of county liquor control stores, the board of commissioners may reset the date for the municipal election upon the question of the establishment of the town Alcoholic Beverage Control Stores.”
Currently, one ABC store is located within city limits on U.S. Highway 74, and qualifying businesses can sell alcohol.
“If, after the establishment of a liquor store or stores in the town, under the provisions of this article, an election is called for the County of Anson pursuant to G.S. 18B-600(b) and a majority of the votes cast in such election shall be for the establishment of county liquor stores in Anson County, then within six months following the establishment of an opening of any county liquor control stores, the town board of alcoholic control shall close the town alcoholic beverage control stores and shall thereafter cease to operate the same,” the ordinance states. “During such six month period, the town board of alcoholic control shall dispose of all alcoholic beverages on hand, all fixtures, and all other property in the hands and under the control of the town board of alcoholic control, and shall convert the same into money and, after making a true and faithful accounting, shall turn all money in its hands over to the general fund of the town.
“If, at the county election called pursuant to G.S. 18B-600(b), a majority of the votes cast shall be against the establishment of county liquor control stores, the town alcoholic beverage control stores and the Town of Wadesboro Board of Alcoholic Control shall not be affected by the results of such election for the establishment of county liquor stores, and the provisions of this article shall remain in full force and effect.”
Municipal elections on alcohol can be held every four years.
A controversial beer garden was allowed for the Taste of the Pee Dee Festival in downtown Wadesboro in 2014, but was canceled when the band was rained out, since Police Chief Thedis Spencer said the street could only be blocked off for the beer garden if the band was playing. Oliver’s still sold wine and beer in and immediately in front of the restaurant that day.
The county very nearly became wet in the November 2014 election. During that election, 57.22 percent of voters were against the sale of malt beverages in the county, while 56.54 were against the sale of unfortified wine.
The last time county residents had voted on alcohol sales within the county was in 1984, when 61.3 percent of voters were against the off-premises sale of malt beverages and 61.5 percent of voters were against the sale of unfortified wine off-premises.
The most recent county vote came about when the county board of commissioners voted 4-2 in 2014 to put alcohol sales to a vote that fall, with Commissioners Dr. Jim Sims and Bobby Sikes voting against it and Commissioner Harold Smith absent. The ballot item read, “FOR [ ] or AGSINST [ ] the ‘on-premises’ and ‘off-premises’ sale of malt beverage or unfortified wine in Anson County.”
“On premises is where you consume the beer/wine where you buy it,” then-County Manager Lawrence Gatewood explained to the council at the time. “Examples would be a wine tasting at a winery or buying a beer/wine at a bar and drinking it there. Off premise is just the opposite. Example would be buying a six-pack of beer at a convenience store and taking it home (off-premise) to drink.”
Had the referendum passed, any qualifying business could have sold alcohol.
“If the referendum passes, the entire county would be eligible to sell beer and wine,” county attorney Scott Forbes said at the time. “For example, the town of Peachland cannot sell beer or wine right now, but, if this passes, the county would supersede the towns. If the county’s wet, all of the towns in the county are wet, too.”
Sikes and Simms had explained they felt allowing more sales would be detrimental to the county. Chairwoman Anna Baucom said she supported the voters’ decision, but, “I don’t see the difference in buying a bottle of wine at Food Lion in Wadesboro, and buying a bottle of wine out in the county.”
Commissioner Ross Streater was also in favor of a wet county, saying it would bring in tax revenue and that some merchants supported it.
“If people inside the city limits can buy alcohol, people in rural areas should be able to,” he said at the time.
Some members of the Anson County Tourism Development Authority, including chairman Jeff Boothby, have also said during meetings that allowing alcohol sales may increase the attraction for tourists looking for drinks at festivals. In 2015, the board asked the commissioners to allow another referendum in 2016 for voters to choose again whether Anson can be a dry county. While the 2014 referendum was for unfortified beer and wine, the proposed 2016 one would have been for the sale of all alcoholic beverages.
However, the commissioners voted it down, saying it had to wait since referendums can only be placed on the ballot every three years. The TDA argued that this referendum, allowing for the sale of all alcoholic beverages, was different, but the commissioners still felt that it was too soon.
The date is soon approaching when the board had suggested it may be open to readdressing the issue, as this fall marks three years since the 2014 referendum failed.
While he had hoped to put the referendum on the 2016 ballot for the presidential election — when he felt more voters would participate in the vote — after the commissioners voted the proposed referendum down last year, Boothby was open to trying again. The date for voters to choose once again whether Anson will be wet or dry may approach soon.
“What came out of that was, technically because we voted on unfortified beer and wine before, and this was for making Anson a wet county, we could have put it on the ballot this time,” Boothby said at the January 2016 meeting. “The commissioners, however, were not in true support of putting it on the ballot because it was so close to the last time it had been voted on, and so it was their opinion that it would be better to wait a little while before putting it back on the ballot. Which means that 2017 or 2018 is a good chance.”
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.