Walnut Cove residents may have a chance to vote to approve or deny liquor by the drink in the town if the town Board of Commissioners agrees to a request by El Cabo owner Keelan Jones.
Jones came before the board last week to ask them to put the issue on the November ballot in the hopes of being able to expand the offerings at his restaurant.
“I have owned and operated my business here in Walnut Cove for the past eight years,” he told the council. “Right now I employ about 20 people. By allowing liquor by the drink to be voted in I would like to see an increase in my business and maybe put in an outdoor patio area.”
Jones said he does not intend to put a bar in his restaurant, but would like to be able serve margaritas, a typical menu item at many Mexican restaurants.
“I would have to buy my liquor from the county I live in which would be here in Walnut Cove,” he said. “That would mean more money coming to the town.”
He said he currently sells beer and wine at his restaurant and has not had any problems as a result of those sales.
Walnut Cove ABC Board General Manager Marian Tilley told the board that she did not see any problems with the request.
“I don’t want to see bars open in Walnut Cove, but I can understand a nice restaurant where people can get a margarita with their meal,” she said. “It would help his business. I understand where he is coming from.”
She noted that if the board agreed to put the issue on the November ballot, they would not be approving liquor by the drink in the town.
“You are just giving the voters a chance to decide,” she said.
“I don’t have a problem with this,” agreed Commissioner Kim Lewis. “I don’t think any board should make that decision, it is the voting public that should make that decision. The only thing we are going to do is letting the community vote.”
This is not the first time the issue has been on the ballot in Walnut Cove.
A similar referendum, asking to permit the sale of mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs and convention centers, failed on a 210 to 103 vote in 2007.
The board will vote on a resolution asking the question be be placed on the 2015 ballot at their next meeting on Aug. 11. The State Board of Elections must be notified by Aug. 20 in order to get the questions added to the ballots in time for the November election.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.