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Clermont to revisit beer, wine sales in straw poll on ballot
Lee Hawkins

Clermont Town Council voted Monday night to place a nonbinding straw poll on the Nov. 7 ballot over whether to allow beer and wine sales.

Council directed the town clerk to get the help of legal counsel to draft the wording for the straw poll and have it on the ballot in time for the start of early voting Oct. 16.

Council members Margaret Merritt and Kristi Crumpton agreed that the poll would be “more official” and get more people to respond if placed on the ballot. Councilman Doug Myers joined them in the majority. Council members Robin Brown and Seth Weaver voted against it.

The action came following an appearance by state Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, who talked about the process of de-annexation and asked local officials to let two businesses de-annex from their jurisdiction.

Hawkins told council and those who attended the meeting that the two business owners had petitioned his help.

“This is a situation where these two folks will probably go out of business,” Hawkins said at the meeting. “I don’t want to see anybody go out of business … So, I’m just here to appeal to you to consider letting these folks de-annex.”

The business owners — Chris Nonnemaker, who operates Papa’s Pizza To Go, and Mark Kirves of Iron Accents — are located on Cleveland Highway. They told The Times last week that they can’t go forward with business plans while being part of a town that doesn’t permit beer and wine to be sold.

Nonnemaker and Kirves did not attend Monday night’s meeting.

Robin Collinson, who owns The Clermont Venue downtown, attended the special called meeting. She would like to see the town allow alcohol sales because it helps businesses with their bottom line.

“I’m going to make sure I vote in that straw poll,” Collinson said after the meeting.

During a regular meeting last week, council agreed to send Hawkins a letter containing the results of a straw poll taken during a 2014 council meeting. Of the 48 residents who voted, 32 were against having the sale of beer and wine. Another 16 of 20 non-residents who voted did not want beer and wine sales.

Hawkins said the problem he has with the 2014 straw poll is the small number who participated.

“It’s hard to get people to meetings, I understand that,” Hawkins said. “But, I think if you did a straw poll, nonbinding straw poll, I think everybody could live with that.”