Let the voters decide 

Published 11:29 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

City to ask voters to choose whether restaurants can serve mixed drinks 


SALUDA—Saluda voters should get the chance this November to vote on whether or not restaurants in city limits can serve mixed alcoholic beverages.  

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Saluda City Council met Monday and heard from city manager Jonathan Cannon.  

Cannon explained that there are some instances where restaurants and hotels can sell alcohol through a state statute, even if the municipality has not passed a referendum. In 2005, Saluda voters approved a referendum to sell beer and wine, but there is no provision through the city to sell spirits.  

Cannon said the city has gotten permits from some establishments to sell mixed beverages through the state statute, which allows some businesses to served spirits if they meet certain criteria 

The criteria through the state includes that the building has to be on the register of historic places or located within a state historic district; be located within 1.5 miles of the intersection of a designated North Carolina scenic byway; is located within 15 miles of a national scenic highway and is located in a county in which the on-premises sale of malt beverages or unfortified wine is authorized in two or more cities in the county.  

“Not all establishments in Saluda are eligible,” Cannon said. “They have to meet those criteria.”  

If the establishments go through the state statute, Saluda does not get tax revenue from the sell of mixed beverages, Cannon said. Polk County will get that revenue, he said. If the city approves a referendum, Saluda will get the tax revenue from any establishment that sells mixed beverages.  

“The question came up, what about the rest of the businesses in town,” Cannon said. He said about half of the businesses qualify to get a permit through the state and the other half do not.  

Saluda Mayor Fred Baisden said in 2005, Saluda voters passed a referendum to sell beer and wine after it was discovered some establishments could sell beer and wine and others could not through state statutes. The state statute is 18B, which is 136 pages long concerning the sell of alcohol in North Carolina.   

“I’m not promoting it, but this is the same thing (as in 2005),” Baisden said.  

To be able to hold a referendum, Saluda also has to meet certain criteria. The criteria Saluda qualified for in order to hold a referendum on mixed beverages was that the city had to have at least 500 registered voters. Cannon said he called the board of elections, and Saluda currently has 509 registered voters. The state lists Saluda as having a total of 745 residents.  

Commissioner Paul Marion said he asked Cannon to call other towns around Saluda’s size to see if there are any negatives to selling mixed beverages, including the need for more resources such as the police department.  

“Is there a benefit for the community as a whole, or would we see a negative impact?” Marion asked.  

Commissioner Mark Oxtoby said the cat is out of the bag for the ones who can sell through the state 

“It’s just if we want to collect taxes on it,” Oxtoby said.  

Commissioners approved having city attorney Jana Berg prepare a request to get the referendum on this year’s November ballot, which is a municipal election.  

Commissioner Leon Morgan said he seconded the motion to move forward and “then the voters will make the decision.” 

The state comes up with the verbiage for the referendum. The ballot question will ask voters to select either “for” or “against” to permit the sale of mixed beverages in hotels, restaurants, private clubs, community theatres and convention centers.