More than 3,700 Lumpkin County voters approved the referendum which will allow bars and restaurants countywide to sell liquor by the drink for on-site consumption, while roughly 2,300 county residents voted against it.
Currently, only businesses inside Dahlonega city limits are permitted to sell liquor in addition to beer and wine. Establishments lying outside Dahlonega city limits but within Lumpkin County are presently able to serve only beer and wine until the county begins distributing liquor licenses.
Steve Gooch, Lumpkin County Commission chairman, said the county could adopt a permit distribution ordinance by April, allowing businesses to obtain a liquor license by May. He said the countywide sale of liquor comes after Dahlonega businesses were first permitted to sell distilled spirits about two years ago.
Gooch added approval of the liquor referendum could invite more restaurant and hotel development to Lumpkin County, bringing with it more than $100,000 annually in county tax revenue and the potential to grow the county’s annual 1-million-visitors tourism industry.
"We hope that it will help us in recruiting some retail development along the (Ga.) 400 corridor. We can’t attract restaurants, especially restaurants like Longhorn’s and Outback without the liquor referendum passing," Gooch said. "A lot of our citizens are now driving to Gainesville and Dawsonville to find those restaurants ... The ultimate goal is to keep the sales tax money in our county rather than in other counties."
Despite the anticipated tax revenue local officials believe may accompany the approved liquor referendum, Lumpkin County resident Marvin Martin said he fears the sale of liquor may increase roadway fatalities.
"They think it will bring money into the county ... but I don’t think whatever it brings in will be worth the problems that come with it."
But Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce President Gary Powers said he believes the countywide sale of liquor by the drink is a positive event for the county that won’t further endanger drivers, and could initiate retail growth along Morrison Moore Parkway.