The vote marks the third time since 1994 that Sylva has voted on liquor by the drink. The margin of defeat decreased from 163-91 in 1994 to 220-209 in 2001 — numbers supporters said were indicative of a change in the tide. The measure will take effect in June.
Town board member Danny Allen, who said he would like to see additional revenues generated for the town, introduced the measure earlier this year.
Law requires that the liquor a restaurant buys to serve to customers must be purchased within county lines. The Alcoholic Beverage Commission splits profits garnered from those sales with the county and towns. Increased sales would mean increased revenue for the town.
Sylva uses the money generated by alcohol sales for recreation. Currently a majority of those funds are given to the county in exchange for running the pool located next to town hall.
Some local restaurant owners expressed reservations about liquor by the drink sales, as it would most likely result in physical changes to restaurant bars.
“We’d have to look at the way our restaurant is configured as to whether we could serve or not,” said Tim Hall, owner of Bogarts in an interview prior to the election.
The restaurant’s food pick up windows are located behind the bar. State law requires that those who serve liquor be age 21 or over. Hall said he was unsure about whether state law would allow servers who are under 21 to walk behind the bar to pick up food. Currently the bar sells beer and wine, which employees only need be 18 to serve.
Prior to the referendum’s passage Hall said he hadn’t decided whether the restaurant, a hot spot for families and college students, would immediately begin serving or not.
Other business people have expressed concerns that having liquor by the drink in Sylva could encourage national chain restaurants to open, siphoning business from locally owned establishments.
Passage of liquor by the drink sales gives Sylva a leg-up over neighboring Dillsboro, which passed beer and wine sales this past November. Sylva is now one of few Western North Carolina towns, including Bryson City, Canton and Maggie Valley, that will offer liquor drinks.