Alcohol Vote Sought: Robbins Board Backs Proposals
Robbins will vote on whether wine, beer and mixed drinks may be sold there as in other Moore County towns.
The town is the last remaining municipality in the county where restaurants cannot serve alcoholic beverages and supermarkets do not sell wine or beer.
On Thursday night, in a lengthy session, the town commissioners voted to call for a referendum on allowing alcohol sales. They expanded a petition request and added mixed beverages to proposals that will go to voters this fall. The commissioners went further, voting to support all three proposals.
Brian Allen leads FOR (Future of Robbins) -- an informal group of Rob-bins area merchants and others who petitioned the board asking for the referendum. It asked commissioners to call for a vote on two questions.
The first was whether to permit the on-premises sale of malt beverages by Class A hotels, motels and restaurants only, and to allow off-premises sales by others. The second was whether to permit the on-premises and off-premises sale of unfortified wine.
The board first voted to request an ABC referendum and then voted on what specific propositions would be on the ballot. The commissioners all agreed to add a proposition to allow the sale of mixed beverages, but only in places such as hotels and convention centers.
Robbins has no hotels or motels now. One purpose of the change, according to supporters, would be to attract them.
The commissioners added a third proposition to the two requested by FOR: To permit the sale of mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theaters and convention centers.
They then discussed when to call for a vote to take place.
"The sooner the better," Allen said.
With this being a presidential election year, the Moore County Board of Elections is very busy, said Commissioner Angela Hall, who works there. Because of her job, Hall could not take part in considering the question. Acting on a motion from Frank Marley, the commissioners passed a resolution recusing Hall. Had she merely abstained, it would have counted as a "yes" vote.
All the votes were 4-0 in favor. Mayor Theron Bell votes only to break ties.
"This is not just about making Robbins a place where we want to stay and live, but to make it a place where others want to come and stay," said Commissioner Mark Garner. "We will have much more difficulty bringing a restaurant, the nicer style restaurant -- or, any kind of lodging -- without having full amenities available."
The exact date will be set by the Board of Elections.
Commissioner Lynn Loy asked Raj Sachania to tell the board how the present prohibition law impacts his business.
"Raj, I know you are a grocery store owner," Loy said. "I know you are struggling just like every other business in this town. Gas is killing us. Beer, or wine -- is that really going to help your business, your store?"
Sachania has been active in FOR from the outset. African by birth, he chose the town and bought the Galaxy supermarket after searching the Internet for a combination business opportunity and home town.
He built all the new benches on the downtown streets, working with RobbinsAlive! and the STEP steering committee on ways to grow prosperity and new jobs.
"I wanted to come to Robbins and be part of it," Sachania said. "We need to be able to offer people who come to Robbins places where they can go, feel comfortable -- restaurants where anybody of legal age can consume beer or wine."
Millions of dollars flow around the dry hole of Robbins to nearby towns like Carthage, where people can eat and drink, buy groceries and stock their wine cellars, FOR says.
"I go to Carthage," Allen said. "I probably spend three or four times as much on other things while I am there."
The call for a referendum will go directly to the county elections board, which must set a date for the referendum at least 30 days before the Nov. 4 general election, according to Elections Director Glenda Clendenin.
The elections board will meet Tuesday to set a date, Clendenin said. The earliest it could be held is Sept. 16, she said.
"We have such a short time frame," she said. "Once the date is set, that sets everything else: deadline to register, when one-stop voting can begin."
With more than one election this fall, absentee ballot requests have to specify which ballot is requested.
"We would just ask anybody who need an absentee ballot to be very specific and say they want the ABC referendum ballot," Clendenin said. "They have to tell us which absentee ballot they're asking for."
Registration will close 25 days prior to the election. Robbins has 447 registered voters.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at jchappell @thepilot.com.
More like this story