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By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
GRANITE QUARRY — If Granite Quarry has a referendum on liquor by the drink, it won’t come until at least January 2013.
Jeff Stogner, co-manager of El Acapulco Mexican Restaurant at 215 N. Salisbury Ave., initially pushed for the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen to pass a resolution Monday night that would have allowed a liquor-by-the-drink vote between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6.
But during discussions later Monday night, Stogner changed his mind.
He asked the board to give him until its Oct. 1 meeting to see what funds he can raise to pay for the special election. The main reason: Aldermen, particularly Eloise Peeler and Jim LaFevers, said Monday night they were against taxpayer funds going toward a liquor-by-the-drink vote requested by only one business.
“I can’t support it,” LaFevers said.
Earlier in the meeting, Stogner volunteered to contribute all or part of the money needed for an election.
Should Stogner raise the estimated $2,500 to $3,000 — it would be a contribution to the town — the special referendum could then be held between Jan. 8 and Jan. 30 of next year, if aldermen passed the necessary resolution in October.
“It’s something we need,” Stogner said, describing how he loses customers when they learn they can’t have margaritas with their meals.
According to state statute, a special election would have to take place 60 to 120 days after the town’s approval of a vote.
State law prohibits alcoholic beverage elections from being conducted on November election days in even-numbered years — the reason the vote wouldn’t take place until January 2013.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Feather reiterated his position from June, saying he had no problem putting the liquor-by-the-drink question on a ballot and letting residents decide. But his question always was who was going to pay for the election.
Only two people have spoken publicly for the vote — Stogner and Eli Fisher, who owns the property where the Mexican restaurant is located. In a statement to the board, Fisher noted that taxes have been paid to the town on that property since 1958.
Less than a decade ago, Granite Quarry voters rejected liquor-by-the-drink sales by an eight-vote margin, 92 against to 84 for.
At one point, Stogner expressed concerns about his paying the entire “fee” for an election, at the risk of seeing competitors come in and take advantage of liquor-by-the-drink sales, should it pass. He asked, would there be any way of his being reimbursed by other businesses who also sold liquor by the drink?
Town Attorney Chip Short said the town could not enter a contract that would require others to reimburse Stogner’s business.
Alderman Eloise Peeler asked Stogner whether he knew Granite Quarry did not allow liquor-by-the-drink sales when he opened his Mexican restaurant. Stogner said he did, but was told the prospects of having it later were there, and he also saw potential for a Mexican restaurant in the town.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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