published Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Eton to try again to settle alcohol-by-the-drink issue


by Naomi Jagoda
  • photo
    A sign reads "Vote Yes" across the street from a sign reading "Vote No for Alcohol."
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Thanks to a tie vote on Sunday alcohol-by-the-drink sales, Eton, Ga., will hold its first runoff in at least 20 years.

In Tuesday's election, 44 people voted in favor of the measure and 44 people were opposed. The runoff will take place Dec. 6.

"It's quite unusual," Eton City Councilman Jim Bartley said. "I don't think anyone expected it."

A measure allowing Sunday beer and wine sales in Eton passed by a vote of 45 to 42.

There are 340 registered voters in Eton, but only 90 ballots were cast, according to the Eton City Clerk Office.

While voter participation typically declines from the first election to the runoff, University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said the runoff in this case may result in greater turnout because "voters [will] believe their votes actually make a difference."

Dinah Rowe, president and CEO of the Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce, said groups weren't coming out for or against the measure prior to Tuesday's election.

"It has been very quiet in Murray County about the issue," Rowe said.

Rowe said the liquor-by-the-drink measure might help bring a nice restaurant or hotel to the city.

But Roger Vest, pastor at First United Methodist Church in neighboring Chatsworth, Ga., said he hasn't seen new businesses come to Chatsworth since the residents voted to allow liquor-by-the-drink sales there last year.

"There's just the danger of enhanced alcohol-related accidents and other alcohol-related issues," said Vest, who spoke out last year against Chatsworth's measure.

Voters in LaFayette, Ga., also will head back to the polls Dec. 6 for runoffs in two City Council races in which the top vote-getters did not receive at least 50 percent of the votes.

In Ward 3, voters will choose between Barry "Chris" Hollis and Judy Meeks, and in Ward 4, voters will choose between Donnie McGaha and Christopher Scott Davis.

A runoff was avoided In Ward 2, where Benjamin Bradford received a majority of votes.

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