Registered voters across Bladen County will have several important decisions to make Tuesday during the May 6 primary. Among them is a county-wide beer and/or wine sales referendum that was placed on the ballot by county commissioners.
The referendum has divided the county and all but become a tug-o-war between the religious and business sectors.
Ron Taylor, owner of Taylor Manufacturing and Lu Mil Vineyard, who brought the request for a referendum to the county commissioners on Aug. 5, 2013, said then that passage of the referendum would be a benefit to many in Bladen County.
“Some of us are tired of paying taxes to haul off trash from (neighboring counties and municipalities) that sell beer and wine,” he said. “We get no revenue from them and spend tens of thousands of our tax dollars disposing of that waste where our citizens bought their beer.
“We are an agricultural community here in Bladen County,” he added. “And we feel like we’re being discriminated against because we can’t sell (beer and wine) in our county.”
Robin Summerlin, a former restaurant owner in Elizabethtown, wrote in a letter to the editor that he doesn’t understand why “some Bladen citizens have to drive halfway across this very large county to buy a legal product” and “why some Bladen retailers get to sell a legal product and some don’t.”
Jens Lutz, who owns Spinners Realty in Bladenboro, originally submitted a request for a referendum to sell beer and wine in Bladenboro, but withdrew the application prior to the deadline for submitting the required number of signatures. He recently said passage of the county-wide referendum would benefit Bladenboro because it would mean the arrival of a new grocery store.
“I can’t say who right now,” Lutz said several weeks ago, “but they’ll come if this passes.”
The town of Bladenboro has defeated a beer and wine sales referendum once before, nixing the idea in 2001 — a battle that was waged by the Rev. Bruce Cannon, who is also heading the fight against passage of the referendum this time.
“I’ve been amazed at all the empty promises being made to people,” said Cannon, director of missions for the Bladen Baptist Association. “There are so many things being told to people that just aren’t true — like a grocery store coming to Bladenboro. I’ve called them all (grocery chains) and they all said they won’t come even if the referendum passes. There just aren’t enough people to support it.
“They (supporters of the referendum) can’t name a store that would come because there aren’t any,” he added.
Cannon said he’s been surprised not only by the tactics being used by proponents of the referendum, but also by the source of those tactics.
“It’s being done by some good church folks,” he said. “But what’s being spread by them is a lot of pie in the sky stuff and, worse, there’s has been a lot of venom and viciousness.
“We’ve simply tried to take the high road through this process,” he added.
Beer and/or wine is currently being sold in Elizabethtown, White Lake, Clarkton and East Arcadia.
“It’s a shame that those who don’t want beer and wine sold in their communities could possibly be shouted down by those who already sell it in their own community,” Cannon said. “It’s not really a fair vote.”