BROADWAY: Alcohol measures put to voters a second time

Oct. 14, 2013 @ 07:01 PM

About 20 years after Broadway voters shot down the idea, they're being asked again to decide whether local restaurants should be able to serve alcohol and if town officials should have the option of opening a liquor store.

Four alcohol-related items are on the ballot in the Nov. 5 general election, for which early voting begins Thursday. One would allow for a state-run liquor store to be opened within town limits if the Broadway Town Board of Commissioners wants to do so at some later time, and the other three deal with whether restaurants should be able to serve beer, serve wine and/or serve liquor.

Convenience stores, grocery stores and other similar retailers are already allowed to sell alcohol in Broadway; five stores do now.

As it stands, The Feedmeal is probably the only restaurant the changes would affect. The small town's other sit-down restaurant, The Roadrunner Cafe, could serve alcohol if the measures pass — but it almost certainly wouldn't, said owner Henry Green. He said the eatery has neither the space nor the clientele to turn a profit serving alcohol.

Green, a former Broadway mayor and town commissioner, runs the cafe with his wife, Lynn, a Broadway commissioner. She was out of town and unable to comment, but he said he supports the measures. In fact, Green said, he supported them back in 1995 and later caught flack for the proposal — which he said has always been about "whatever is best for the town," and nothing more.

"I pushed for it before," Green said. "I put it up on the ballot for everyone to vote, but then I got some repercussions."

As for The Feedmeal, no one associated with the restaurant could be reached for comment. However, co-owner Michelle Hunt spoke in favor of the referendum items during a July town meeting, according to public records, as did local residents Donny Hunter and Bob Troxler. No one spoke against it publicly then or since.

Troxler reiterated his support Monday, saying he would like to be able to get a drink with dinner without having to drive out of town. Like Green and other supporters, Troxler — who owns a painting business in Cary — said he believes the move would be economically beneficial.

"I just think it'll help the restaurants and maybe attract some other restaurants to town, and just help the overall business climate," he said.

Broadway Town Manager Bob Stevens said he supports the idea because it would help the town — and its restaurant scene — grow and compete.

"To me, it's not an alcohol issue," Stevens said. "It's an economic development issue. If you're against the sale of alcohol, that ship's already sailed. There's five places in town already to buy beer and wine."

And then, he said, there's future growth to take into consideration.

"There are people who want a nice, sit-down restaurant, but those places likely won't come if they can't sell it," Stevens said. "... I certainly don't think our town demographics would meet any chain restaurant's criteria for moving into a community. Down the road, we might, but they still won't come if we don't let them serve alcohol."

He also noted that like in every other establishment that serves alcoholic drinks, Broadway restaurants would be forced to monitor their patrons to make sure they didn't have too much, or else be punished by the state.

As for the ABC store, Stevens said he and the commissioners haven't discussed it and will probably hold off on those discussions until after the vote to see if it's something they'll even be able to pursue.

But, Stevens said, there's only one liquor store nearby, so competition would be low. It could also draw people from Harnett County: they're already buying it somewhere else, Stevens said, but a store in Broadway would at least send their money to local governments.

"It's 16 miles to Lillington," Stevens said. "So for western Harnett, Broadway could be an attractive location."

Back in 1995, Stevens said, there were a handful of very vocal opponents who helped stop the alcohol measures. But this time, he said, he has heard almost nothing about it.

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In addition to voting on four alcohol referendum items, Broadway voters will also elect four members of the Broadway Board of Town Commissioners.

Unless a strong write-in candidate emerges between now and election day on Nov. 5, uncontested incumbents Woody Beale, Jim Davis and Thomas Beal, plus newcomer Janet Harrington, will win their seats.

Beale is campaigning to fill the final two years left on the term of the late Commissioner Clemellyn "Clem" Welch, who died in May. Davis and Beal, who is the mayor pro tem, are both campaigning for re-election to four-year terms. Harrington is campaigning for the four-year term Beale gave up to go for the shorter, two-year seat.

Early voting begins Thursday at 225 S. Steele St. in downtown Sanford, where voters in the Sanford municipal elections also will be casting their ballots if they choose to vote early. The office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday this month, as well as on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Also during early voting, anyone eligible to vote but who hasn't yet registered can stop by the elections office to register and vote on the same day. It's not allowed on election day itself, however.

On Nov. 5, all of Broadway's 857 registered voters who didn't take part in early voting can cast their ballots at Broadway Elementary School between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. School will be in session from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and although parking ought to be available on campus, Lee County Elections Director Nancy Kimble said that like with all other schools, voters should avoid going during peak hours if possible — just before and just after school, when students are being dropped off and picked up.