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Liquor sales divide businesses, churches in Lumpkin
Phyllis McCrum gets her voting completed Tuesday afternoon during early voting at the Dahlonega County precinct at the Mountain Education Center. Lumpkin County voters also get to vote on liquor by the drink in unincorporated Lumpkin.


Hear Roosters Cafe manager Jack Newton discuss the liquor referendum up for consideration Tuesday in Lumpkin County.
In addition to casting ballots for the presidential primary election, Lumpkin County voters will consider a referendum that proposes the sale of liquor by the drink in businesses across the county. While some Lumpkin County voters avidly approve of the liquor referendum, others are staunchly against it.

Retail establishments within Dahlonega city limits are currently the only businesses in the county permitted to serve liquor by the drink. Businesses outside Dahlonega city limits but within Lumpkin County are able to serve only beer and wine.

Kimberly Pruitt, supervisor of elections and registrar for Lumpkin County, said the liquor referendum is a big issue because it’s a divisive one for the county.

"Most of the churches are very adamantly against it, and the people that have moved in here are very adamantly for it because they’re used to the convenience of having a sit-down restaurant in which you can have drinks," Pruitt said.

She added the referendum is likely responsible for drawing more Lumpkin County voters to the polls this primary presidential election than usual. Pruitt said a total of 224 Lumpkin County voters have participated in early voting as of Tuesday evening.

Several Lumpkin County residents said they voted to approve the liquor referendum with the hope that more restaurants would open within the county to allow residents more local alternatives for fine dining and drinking.

"Some of those restaurants, like Bennigan’s and so forth, are not going to come to a place if they can’t sell liquor by the drink," Lumpkin County resident Sid Benton said. "We don’t have any of those kind of restaurants anywhere in the county. They’ve all gone out to (Ga.) 400 because they can serve liquor by the drink out on (Ga.) 400 in Dawson County."

Some early voters described approval of the liquor referendum as an opportunity to generate more revenue for the county.

Chad Logan, a Lumpkin County resident, said he believed permitting the sale of distilled spirits within the county would enhance the local economy, especially for small businesses.

"I think people already travel to other counties and spend their money there, and they should be spending it in Lumpkin County," Logan said. "I’m sure quite a few go down to Dawsonville and eat down there, and it’s just money Lumpkin County could use."

Roosters Cafe on Ga. 400 operates in Lumpkin County, but outside Dahlonega city limits.

Jack Newton, a manager at Roosters Cafe, said he thinks the possibility of adding liquor to the restaurant’s alcohol selection is great.

"It’s more money for us. It’s more money for the county," Newton said. "It’d help us bring in more customers. We have a lot of people who come in but don’t stay because we don’t sell mixed drinks or hard liquor. They’ll leave and go back to the square."

Newton added that the restaurant also loses customers on Sundays due to its inability to serve alcohol. He said customers often leave Roosters Cafe on Sundays for downtown Dahlonega or Dawsonville, where they can purchase an alcoholic beverage.

Eddie Pruitt, owner of Roosters Cafe, said if the liquor referendum is approved, the sale of liquor at the cafe could boost alcohol sales from roughly 8 percent to 12 percent.

Some restaurateurs in Lumpkin County anticipate the influx of more dining establishments into the county if voters approve the liquor referendum on the ballot for Feb. 5.

But Pruitt isn’t fearful of the competition.

"I’m not worried at all," he said. "It helps get people in the area."

Restaurant managers on the square in downtown Dahlonega expressed little concern for the liquor referendum.

Kurt Raftelis, manager of Dante’s On the Square in downtown Dahlonega, said he believes the countywide sale of liquor and the possibility of new restaurant chains in the area will not affect businesses on the square.

"(Tourists) generally come here and eat at the local restaurants," Raftelis said. "They can go to their hometown and eat at the Ruby Tuesday or Applebee’s if they want."

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