(Franklin) — The Franklin City Council voted Thursday night during its regular February meeting to place an alcohol referendum into the hands of the city voters during the upcoming primary elections on May 20, 2014.
According to Mayor Joel Rogers, a majority of votes (50 percent + 1 vote) will be needed to pass the referendum allow the pouring of distilled spirits (liquor) in restaurants within the Franklin city limits.
The issue was placed on the agenda by Rogers after being requested by the ownership of the largest restaurant in Heard County, Loco Rio.
“We are very happy with tonight’s decision by the city council,” said Brian Rogers, one of the restaurant’s owners. “We just want the citizens of Franklin to be able to voice their opinions on the matter. We are not looking to turn our establishment into a bar, but we do want to be able to compete with the other restaurants just 20 minutes away in other counties.”
According to Brian Rogers, beer and wine sales only accounted for about 6 percent of Loco Rio’s total revenue last year.
“We have been serving beer and wine products for over a year with minimal problems, and we think this could be a great way to boost falling revenues and help the local economy for all of the businesses in Franklin,” added Rogers.
The motion passed with three votes in favor by Kevin Hayes, Cliff Jiles, and Alane Nelms and one abstention by Councilman Bo Almond.
Almond was clear about his opposition to the vote in a phone interview after the meeting. “I think the council violated our code of ethics tonight and I think we lost the trust of the people,” said Almond. “I refused to vote because I think there was a conflict of interest and I think our new council was asked to do something tonight that they shouldn’t have.”
According to Almond, several citizens have been vocal to him that they don’t want liquor in the city.
“If we are going to pour anything into our city, we need to pour jobs,” said the city’s longest tenured councilman. Almond also expressed his concern that the vote was made in the absence of Councilman Shane Manders, the owner of the property that houses Loco Rio.
Manders could not be reached by phone for comment Thursday night. According to Mayor Rogers, Manders was away on business.
One of the newly elected council members, Alane Nelms, stated that she thought the people should be allowed to decide. “It is fine with me that we are going to let the public decide,” said Nelms. “The people that drink now are going somewhere else… why not bring that revenue to our own county.”
Further information about the location of the vote and the details on any potential new ordinances, fees, etc. are still unclear at this time.
Stay tuned to HeardCitizen.com for further information in the weeks leading up to the primary election.