Alcohol sales on ballot in Monterey

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 15, 2007

VIDALIA — Monterey residents will head to the polls Saturday to decide if they will allow the continued sale of alcohol in Police Jury District 5B.

The alcohol referendum was placed on the ballot after 426 of the district’s voters signed a petition calling for it.

First Baptist Church of Monterey’s pastor, the Rev. Gene Lee — who said he was not speaking for one side of the issue or the other — said the petition was a grassroots effort that was not headed by any church or organization.

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“I believe the reason people signed the petition was because they wanted to vote and have a say-so in the issue,” he said. “I think that probably the reason why it never came up before was because there were no hard liquor sales before.”

Three businesses could be affected by outcome of the referendum: Paul’s Grocery, Taunton’s of Monterey and J.L.’s Place.

Another business, P.J.’s Corner Stop — which is considered to be in the Monterey area — will not be affected because it lies just outside the boundaries of District 5B.

Jake Rogers, the owner of Monterey’s only bar, J.L.’s Place, said if the referendum fails it would shut his business down.

His business has been in Monterey for approximately 30 years, Rogers said, and has always sold beer but only began selling hard liquor in February.

But those sales are important to his business, he said.

“I need the liquor, too,” he said. “I might be able to make it but the mixed drinks help.”

Rogers said he has been trying to support the other local businesses that could be affected by the referendum as well.

“I’m talking it up and trying to get people to go out and vote ‘yes’ for all of those propositions,” he said. “We need our little businesses down here, and it’s really going to affect them both.”

Jeffery Paul, the owner of Paul’s Grocery, said he initially signed the petition because it was his understanding that it was a petition to rid the area of hard liquor sales.

“Personally, I am against hard liquor,” he said.

But Paul is encouraging those who ask him to vote “yes” for propositions one and four because he is afraid the wording of proposition four could cancel out proposition one if four fails, he said.

“Common sense says when you read proposition four, which if it fails will eliminate anything with more than 0.5 percent alcohol, that would include beer,” Paul said.

“I have been told (the propositions) stand alone, but unless I hear an opinion from the attorney general that says otherwise, I can’t see how proposition four would exclude beer,” he said.

There is demand for at least limited alcohol sales in the Monterey area, Paul said.

“My customers want me to continue to sell beer,” he said. “My customers want to buy their beer locally.”

Cutting out beer sales would also hamper his business, Paul said.

“It would hurt for sure,” he said. “Economically it would hurt me.”

At this point, proposition five would not affect any businesses in the area because Monterey does not have any restaurants, Rogers said.

If it passes, however, Rogers said he plans to open one on a local lake.

A vote for all of the propositions will maintain the current status quo. A vote against any of them will restrict alcohol sales in some way.