As the April 28 election day draws closer for the vote on whether to approve the sale of liquor by the drink, some opposition is beginning to surface.
Kent Lampp, a missionary with Holmes Baptist Association, began this week placing signs within the county, asking residents to oppose the measure, which would change the current ordinance which allows sales of alcohol over 6.243 percent alcohol by volume by the package only.
Lampp sent a message to fellow members of the association earlier this week, encouraging them to do the same.
“It seems to me that I am hearing more and more lately from men like myself who are God-called making the declaration that ‘the Bible doesn’t say it is wrong to drink alcohol,’ to which I respectfully disagree,” wrote Lampp. “To the best of my knowledge, this passage is still a part of God’s word: ‘…It is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of the afflicted.’”
“Lead those who are followers of Jesus to vote no on April 28,” he added. “I have heard most of my life that silence means consent. It is no time to be silent.”
Meanwhile, the Holmes County Development Commission (HCDC), which is spearheading the effort, states the issue is solely about making economic progress.
“Holmes County needs this to pass in order for growth to happen,” said HCDC Executive Director Joe Rone. “We are spearheading this campaign strictly from an economical standpoint. Without a liquor by the drink law, many businesses will not even consider coming here.”
Rone states many large chain restaurants and other businesses require counties to have a liquor by the drink law before they will consider locating their business in that community. The 79 Corridor is a large factor in seeking to change the existing law, according to Rone.
“We know with the development we are going to have around the interstate, we are going to need a big chain restaurant,” said Rone. “None of them will look here unless we have liquor by the drink. The county is damp, but we do not have the ability to sell liquor by the drink so we can have bigger restaurants come here. If we want the 79 Corridor to be successful and for other existing businesses to expand and grow, we need this.”
Some local business owners say the proposed change is also about supporting and expanding local small businesses. “We have to have the capacity to bring people back here for a reason,” said Dogwood Lakes Golf Course Owner Heather Shelby. “Sure, people come here and play golf or go diving at Vortex Spring, but we need more than that. We don’t want to be as big as Pier Park, but we do want growth and progress, and this will help get us there.”
Lampp says while he supports economic growth for Holmes County, he does not believe the liquor by the drink measure is the ideal catalyst for that growth.
“I moved here in the late 90s right after the vote passed to allow the county to sell liquor,” said Lampp. “So far, I don’t see where it’s benefited our county at all. I don’t see where it’s made us any better than before.”
One thing on which both sides seem to agree on is the importance of residents turning out for the election.
“I do not care how you vote,” said Rone. “If you want to vote yes, that’s fine. If you want to vote no, that’s fine too. We just want you to vote.”
“Voting in elections like this is important,” said Shelby. “We as citizens are making our voices heard when we vote. I encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote, yes or no, it doesn’t matter, just get out and cast your vote.”
“We do hope the citizens make their voice heard on April 28,” agreed Lampp. “Life is full of choices, and you’ve just got to make the best choice you can.”
The Holmes County Elections Office reports having mailed out 1,700 absentee ballots the last week of March and having received 592 back as of Tuesday. This will be an in-person vote on April 28; however, early voting will begin on April 20 at the elections office.