By a margin of almost two to one, Clermont residents resoundly said no to beer and wine sales in town.
Paul Johnson and his wife, Mary, made it to town hall about 20 minutes before the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“More than anything, we’re here to vote because of the alcohol issue,” said Johnson, a teacher at North Hall Middle School. “I don’t have anything against anyone that wants to buy beer or wine, but they can go to Cleveland or some place else to get it.”
Mary Johnson said she and her husband moved to Clermont from South Hall.
“Alcohol sales is just going to bring more businesses here and that’s going to bring congestion,” she said. “It’s not what we want for Clermont.”
Fred Wiezorek a retired body shop worker who has lived in Clermont 25 years voted against alcohol sales and knew before the results came in that it would be a “slam dunk.”
“Just from talking to my friends and neighbors, I knew that most people would be opposed to alcohol sales here,” Wiezorek said. “I’ve met liberals who live here that don’t want it.”
Two questions on the non-binding poll asked voters whether the town should license the sale of beer and wine by the drink, and also license package sales of beer and wine. Almost 63 percent of the 127 residents who voted said no.
Mark Kirves launched a petition drive on Facebook urging support for alcohol sales in Clermont. Kirves, who owns Iron Accents on Cleveland Highway, said he’s gotten offers for his property from buyers interested in putting a restaurant on the location.
“Once they learn that they couldn’t sell alcohol there they walk away,” Kirves said. “Clermont and Gillsville are the only two towns in Hall County that won’t allow alcohols sales.”
Despite the setback with the straw poll, Kirves said he would continue his petition drive.
Property owner Jimmy McDonald said he too is losing money because of the town’s ban on alcohol sales. He said a man to whom he was renting, who sold bait and fishing accessories, left because he couldn’t compete without the ability to also sell beer.
“I voted for it,” McDonald said. “I want a restaurant here where I can take my girlfriend for a good steak without having to drive somewhere.”