Alcohol proved to be a big winner in Tuesday’s municipal elections, with voters agreeing to allow more booze sales in about 11 towns across the state.
The results continue a gradual shift in North Carolina toward fewer alcohol regulations, which must be determined through ballot initiatives in each municipality and county. None of the towns that held a referendum on Tuesday voted down the proposal.
The closest margin came in the tiny historic Forsyth County town of Bethania, where 26 voters backed cocktail sales and 24 voters said no. The change was requested by the town’s only eatery that also hosts a music venue, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Alcohol found its highest-proof margin of victory in the town of Saluda, where 77% of voters supported cocktail sales. Saluda is a mountain town of about 700 people near the South Carolina border.
Some towns saw results that varied between different types of alcohol, as state law requires separate ballot questions for beer, wine and cocktail sales. The Harnett County town of Coats voted 65% in favor of beer sales, but backed cocktails by a 68% margin.
Other towns approving more alcohol sales include Harrisburg and Concord in Cabarrus County, Bladenboro in Bladen County, Siler City in Chatham County, Beulaville in Duplin County, Fremont in Wayne County, and Waco and Kingstown in Cleveland County.
The small size of some of the towns could mean the practical impacts of the change are minimal: Waco, for example, boasts a single convenience store that doubles as a post office with a wall mural labeled “God’s Country.”
In years past, local churches often rallied opposition to alcohol votes. That happens less often now, as conservative congregations focus their energy on other issues like abortion, according to Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League, a frequent critic of alcohol deregulation.
“There was a time, 30 to 40 years ago, if there were an alcohol referendum on the ballot in a city or town in this state, the League would be contacted, and nearly every mainline church in the community would join forces to defeat it,” Creech wrote in his organization’s newsletter on Thursday. “There was a consensus among churches that easier access to alcohol was inherently problematic, bringing with it a host of social problems. Such conclusions are still true, but today it’s unusual to find more than a handful of churches willing to offer any opposition.”
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